During the 2010-11 school year a group of women in Taney County packed more than 25,000 brown paper sacks of juice and snacks for Hollister kindergarten and first-grade students, hoping no child would go hungry when hot meals at school weren’t available.
The women, part of the Junior Auxiliary of Taney County, call their program Snacks in Packs.
“The 25 women, we raised all the money, packed all the food and delivered all the food,” said Joan Anderson, president of the local Junior Auxiliary.
Once a month, the women would gather at Country Mart in Branson in a back storeroom where they’d lay out their boxes of food and spend two hours packing the sacks. Each Friday, the brown paper sacks would then be slipped into the backpack of each children who qualified for free and reduced lunches.
“We were actually the first weekend food program in Taney County,” Anderson said.
The Junior Auxiliary funded the Snacks in Packs through fundraisers, donations and grants. Funding and support came from organizations including Music Road Mall, Saloon Photos, a women’s group at the Branson United Methodist Church, Curves of Branson, Country Mart and Tri-Lakes Board of Realtors.
Shortly after Junior Auxiliary’s Snacks in Packs began in 2006, Gift of Hope started its backpack club in Forsyth, providing weekend food to children identified as in need. Over the years, Gift of Hope has expanded its program into every Taney County school district, except Hollister. This year, Gift of Hope will work with the Junior Auxiliary to feed Hollister children.
“This was the perfect opportunity for Gift of Hope’s Backpack Club to partner with (the Junior Auxiliary) this year,” said Meghan Connell, director of Gift of Hope.
The two organizations will partner this year as Gift of Hope works to take over the Hollister program.
Together they will provide 125 children everything from ready-to-eat meals, shelf-stable milk, juice and snacks. Because the children are getting more food in the packs, financially they can’t fill the 160 packs they have in the past.
“We are letting the principal, counselors and school teachers pick that 125,” said Junior Auxiliary member Cathy Brown. “We are funding half the program,” said Donna Harris, a member of the Junior Auxiliary. “Gift of Hope is funding the rest of it.”
Although the program is changing in how it run, the mission still remains the same, helping children.
“It just kind of makes your heart hurt when you know kids are going hungry,” said member Brenda Galyean.