It costs around $234,000 to raise a child from birth to age 17, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2015 statistics. For some families, schools are their children’s only source of food during the week. But what happens during breaks, when school is out and there are no lunch programs? Five families from The Colony took charge of this problem and created Lovepacs, an organization that feeds children in kindergarten through fifth grade during school breaks, so no kid goes hungry. With 10 locations across Texas (eight in Dallas-Fort Worth), volunteers can fill “pacs” with pantry necessities, such as canned produce, granola bars and peanut butter. A new year rang in a new Plano chapter lead, Mimi Conner, who talked with us about the goals of Lovepacs.
How did Lovepacs get its start?
It started off in 2011 in The Colony area, and I think one of the neat things about this is that when your child comes home and notices other children don’t have food or a lot of food … a conversation starts at home. It was that conversation with parents and children that brought [Lovepacs] together, saying, “What do these kids do if they don’t have enough during the week? What do they do during the holidays?” And so they got together, and they put together Lovepacs. So a Lovepac is a box that goes home with this food, and they have enough there to have some breakfast and to have some lunches and dinners. They can mix and match how they eat differently. It’s one box per week.
What is Lovepacs’ mission?
Lovepacs relies on school counselors to identify the number of kids in their schools at risk of food insecurity while protecting the students’ personal identities. Lovepacs then relies on donors and volunteers to fill boxes with nonperishable food to be delivered to the school for each child. Each box contains two meals plus a snack for each day the schools are closed.
Who is eligible for a Lovepacs box?
The children that qualify for this program are on our free lunch program. I met with the counselors when I first came on. It was the first thing I did, meet with the head counselors at PISD, and some of the numbers they were sharing were pretty staggering. … [In some Plano schools,] we are talking about maybe 300 to 500 enrollment in a school, you’ve got over 80 percent in that program. So what that tells [us is that] we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. We don’t know about families and losing jobs. They had to decide where their money was going to go. They had to pay their bills to keep the lights on and electricity, and sometimes, food isn’t as abundant.
Is Lovepacs just for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade?
What if I notice a little elementary [student] that I know needs assistance, but that little elementary child also has a sibling in a middle school or high school? And so we’re asking that we really work with those counselors to communicate up that line and bring that together and say this family needs three boxes. So we’re not just feeding that one child that goes home and says, “Hey, I got food.” No, we are feeding a family, and that’s where Lovepacs, for me, really makes that impact. It’s not about an individual; it’s about a family.
What does the timeline from start to finish look like for a “pac”?
We usually try to start two months before distribution. We will pack those up and we will get those delivered to them the week before they go [on break].
Is there anything Lovepacs is working toward in the future?
I need a space, and the space has to be very particular. We have some people that rent space at outdoor storages, but you have to pack outside. So if you have bad weather, it’s cold, you can’t ask volunteers to stand out in this type of weather to pack. And at night, when most people are there, it’s freezing. … [The space] has to be a controlled temperature because we have to follow the FDA food guidance on temperature and expiration dates, no damaged containers of any kind. So we are very specific on the things we can and cannot use. If I had one thing that someone could really step up to help me with is to find a really nice space that I would be able to have storage where I would be able to do a pack and then have delivery from that. So a one-stop facility is really my biggest goal.
How can people get involved?
There’s a donate button online for people who would rather give money than do the work. We are looking for corporations that maybe want to adopt boxes. I’m really looking for more businesses that want to do team-building. I’d love to be able to have corporate sponsors adopt a school or adopt a holiday. So there’s a lot of different ways they can do that. I’m really good at those ideas and thoughts to get more people involved the easiest way. Nobody wants more work. … I want people to be able to say I can collect, and I can do this, but I don’t have enough manpower. I can find you that manpower because I got a lot of service leagues that are looking for that credit.
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