Community comes together to provide food for children
Posted on 12/05/2018
Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools, and Justin Robertson, chief schools officer, help to pack the snack pack bags. Often we hear about problems in the community, but we think that someone else will take care of it and we go about our day. When Janice Robertson, a member of the East Brainerd Church of Christ, heard that children in the community were going without food on the weekend she decided to do something about the problem. As a result of her initiative and the support of her church, a program was born that provides Snack Pack bags of food for children on Fridays to help the youngest of our community make it through a weekend.

“I was blind to the fact that there was hunger in our community that was affecting children,” Janice Robertson said. “Hungry children was not something I could accept so with the support of the church family at East Brainerd we decided to make a difference for the children in our schools.”

The Snack Pack program currently packs over 6,000 bags of food each month to be distributed to children in 14 schools in the community. Over 300 church members and people from the community come together on the first Wednesday of each month during the school year to pack the bags for the children. The activity takes place in the Family Life Center at East Brainerd Church of Christ on East Brainerd Road.

When you enter the Family Life Center at East Brainerd, it looks like a fire drill gone haywire with people going everywhere, but it is truly very organized chaos. Good organization is essential to get the needed bags packed in approximately one hour each month. The volunteers grab a blue plastic bag and proceed down one of six assembly lines where volunteers drop food items in the bag. At the end of the line, the bag is dropped to be tied and packed for delivery to a school. The volunteer then grabs another bag to get back in line and start the process all over again.

The 2018-2019 school year is the fifth year East Brainerd Church of Christ has packed bags of food for children. The church started with 150 bags distributed each week to children, and the number has now grown to 1,870 children receiving bags of food each week. Along the way, the church has helped four other churches start their programs and take over some of the schools served by East Brainerd. The added help by other churches has allowed the program to add children at some of the schools served and two additional schools.

The first Wednesday event has volunteers come from local public and private schools, The Center for Sports Medicine, Smart Bank, Community Mortgage, area realtors, the Hopi Tribe of dads and daughters, other community churches, and many other community organizations and businesses seeking to donate their time to help children.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) class at Ooltewah High School has taken a field trip for the past two years to help get the Family Life Center ready for a Wednesday night packing activity. Students help set out tables and food items so that the assembly lines are ready to go when it is time for the packing to begin. The field trips are part of community service requirements for students in the IB program.

“It cost only $80 per year to sponsor a child for an entire school year, and we welcome individual, organization or corporate sponsors,” said Robertson. “This is an all-volunteer program that has been blessed with growth each year in participation and the number of children we can help.”

Photos: (Top) Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools, and Justin Robertson, chief schools officer, help to pack the snack pack bags.