By R.M. Brooks, Chairman, Pinecrest Weekend Snackpacks for Kids
One cold January evening inside a church in Alcorn County, Missisippi, near the Tennessee state line where Union soldiers marched for destiny at Shiloh, I drafted a prayerful pledge to do something for others. It was a decision that has drawn many collaborators to the powerful idea of providing food and hope for families.
I did not know where to start that day eight years ago, but everything just came together quickly. Pinecrest Weekend Snackpacks for Kids took shape after consulting my wife, Lynda, and Pinecrest Baptist Church pastor Jeff Haney and his wife, Paula. The Haneys were familiar with a snack pack program in an Arkansas town where they once lived and Linda knew about local child hunger after years of teaching school.
Partnering with the church's food pantry, we began helping 60 students, which today has grown to 290 students receiving Snackpacks every week at the combined Alcorn County/City of Corinth five elementary and middle schools. The program's impact has garnered steady financial support from Pinecrest Baptist Church as well as sources outside the church. I believe the tremendous community support is because people know there's a need. In Alcorn County, the child food insecurity rate hovers at 23 percent, or more than 2,000 children, according to Feeding America.
Each week about 25 volunteers pack bags filled with single-serve juice, milk, cereal, chips, granola bars and a pop-top can of beanie weenies or other entrees. I deliver the Snackpacks to the schools. Pinecrest Baptist Pantry also makes USDA commodities and other food available once a month for families whose children receive Snackpacks and provides assistance for families facing emergency situations.
At first we purchased the food at a grocer at the cost of $800 a week. But we soon learned of the distribution advantages of becoming a Mid-South Food Bank Partner Agency and we know it would be difficult for the pantry and the Snackpacks without that key partnership. All the necessary pieces came together for the program to succeed, exceeding our expectations from that first conversation about feeding neighbors. So too has the blessings received from the work to help others have a better life.