Considering that 16.1 percent of Utah County children — or 31,090 kids — don’t have consistent access to enough food for a healthy, active life, we feel privileged to be able to deliver over 1,700 Kids Nutrition Paks each week. Teachers determine which of their students are struggling with hunger and give out the Paks in a non-conspicuous way.
Annie Mason, a Payson-based social worker for Nebo Schol District, explained how Kids Nutrition Paks are making a difference at one elementary school.
“There are 25 students at Spring Lake Elementary that receive the food packs each Friday,” says Mason. “The need at the school was so surprising to the staff!”
These 25 students are among the many Utah County kids who face food insecurity in their homes each weekend. The packs contain items that are easy for children to cook and eat on their own.
But the Nutrition Paks haven’t only alleviated hunger for Spring Lake students—they’ve created a cultural shift at the school.
“[The students’ need for food] has opened up the lines of communication with the kids and their parents,” says Mason. “We have kids sharing more about what they are needing at home. And if they have siblings or cousins in their home, they have asked for extra to share. It has been so sweet to hear about them thinking of others.”
As a social worker, Mason sometimes finds it difficult to quickly connect with students or their families so she can truly help them with their psychological, social and other needs. But Nutrition Paks have helped with that problem, too.
“It lowers their defenses when I show up with food for their family. I have been able to build rapport faster,” she says. “With this foundation, I’m able to assist the families with other resources they might need, from medical or dental assistance to mental health services, Sub for Santa or even to just provide a listening ear.”
She also keeps some Nutrition Paks in her office: “It’s a great ice breaker to be able to give a hungry or otherwise struggling student a snack and chat about what is going on in their life.”
“The food packs are really an essential part of my work!” she concludes. “I appreciate them so much and use them daily.”
If you would like to help, here are some ways to get involved in Kids Nutrition Paks: bring supplies for the project, preassemble packs, or donate money to support the program. We appreciate all contributions!