by LaurenTsai | Co-Editor-In-Chief

In a time of thanksgiving, members of the Johnson Key Club were reminded of how much they have to be thankful for. After volunteering at the Food Bank on November 13, students learned more about the immediate hunger needs of the San Antonio community, where one in four children are food insecure.

“I didn’t realize how many children went hungry over the weekend alone,” junior and club editor Mackenzie Altizer said. “I learned that 3 hours at a food bank can help fill 500 kids’ stomachs.”

In a short time, Key Club was able to address some of these hunger needs. In the process, they assembled enough packages to feed 500 kids for a weekend and 288 senior citizens for a week.

Part of the club’s focus was directed towards supporting the San Antonio BackPack Program, which partners with schools to ensure that at-risk children do not go hungry over the weekend. After school faculty identify the needs of their students, they contact the Food Bank to become a BackPack Program Partner.

“We try to find the lower income kids,” Heather Guzman, SA Food Bank Donor Engagement Coordinator, said. “The schools make a special order with us.”

If the Food Bank is able to sponsor the program, volunteers and staff at the Food Bank assemble gallon bag packs of food to be delivered by mobile pantries to the school.

“We have trucks to take it to schools to distribute every Friday for the weekend,” Guzman said.

Upon arrival, the bags of food are slipped discreetly into children’s backpacks. Teachers are careful not to draw any attention to students who are helped by the program.

“We try to keep it as secret as possible – we don’t want to embarrass them. A lot of these kids are embarrassed,” Guzman said. “They won’t even tell their teachers.”

The contents of the bags vary from week to week, but each generally includes protein, iron, fruit, nuts, apple juice, and cereal. Sometimes, notes reminding the kids to study and still have fun are slipped in as well.

“We cover all 3 meals,” Guzman said. “We try to help them at least through the weekend. We try to keep it as healthy as possible but still get them through the weekend.”

In little over an hour, Johnson students had assembled 500 food packs to benefit children with hunger needs. Yet the need displayed by these low-income kids, augmented by the state of the economy, continues to run high. Guzman notes that the number of people who depend on the food bank has increased in just a couple of months.

“We’re averaging about 3400 backpacks a month. The overall food program feeds 58,000 people a week.”

Still, the club was able to reach out to the people of San Antonio in its effort to serve a broader population.

“To me, the best part of it is that our club has connected with an organization that will affect the entire community, not just our neighborhood,” club advisor Nancy Forget.

Club advisor Lisa Knight is also proud of the work the Key Club has done.

“I’m excited about the number of people and families that we’ll be able to help, and I’m excited for our club members to have made a difference in the community.”

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About The Author

Lauren Tsai is a junior at Johnson and enjoys being active in the community. Her interests include volunteering, playing piano, and competing in UIL. She had the privilege of serving on the SA Express-News Teen Team in 2009-2010 and participates in biochemistry research at the UT Health Science Center.

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