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Snack hack: Begun by three Girl Scouts, anti-hunger program adds supporters, schools

Shoppers at Hy-Vee in Cottage Grove can purchase a $5 bag of snacks for needy kids in District 833. The S.N.A.C.K. program was launched by Scouts from Woodbury Girl Scout Troop 55128. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia

Got snacks?

Many kids don't.

First-world problem, some might say. Three girls in Woodbury Scout Troop 55128 discovered otherwise.

"Kids are given breakfasts and lunches, but there's a time in between that they don't have food and they're hungry," said Girl Scout Lila Youngdahl, a ninth-grader at East Ridge High School. "In elementary schools, there's a designated time for snacks and sometimes when they don't have snacks, they feel left out."

The three Scouts — Youngdahl, Erika Carter and Arika Miller, responded by launching a program they dubbed Students Needing Assistance from Caring Kids and Families, or S.N.A.C.K. Since last year, it's provided nearly 3,000 snacks for students who might need to top off their fuel tank between meals.

The program has expanded to include 10 additional District 833 schools as collection sites for the snacks. Youngdahl and Miller also got the Cottage Grove Hy-Vee to help the cause by donating their own snacks.

Shoppers at Hy-Vee can pick up a S.N.A.C.K. sack for $5. The bags are collected at checkout and set aside for eventual delivery.

The program began as their Girl Scout Silver Award project. They had to identify a need in the community and devise a solution that would be sustainable or ongoing.

Not sure where to turn, they contacted Cheryl Jogger, the Woodbury activist who founded the hunger relief group SoWashCoCARES.

"She talked to us about the need for snacks in schools," Miller said. "Students receive free and reduced lunches because they can't afford snacks for their midday break."

Together, they raised money and awareness by engaging with the community. To gauge interest and determine need, they met with District 833 school counselors, social workers and principals. An idea was pitched: Put donation bins in schools and encourage parents or children to bring in granola bars, crackers, pretzels, dried fruits, fruit cups, raisins and other healthy snacks.

"When we were getting started it was kind of difficult. We sent emails and we had to

communicate with them and other schools," Miller said. "We asked if it could be sent out in a newsletter for the schools. Parents could send their kids to school and the kids could just put it in the box."

Miller and Youngdahl set up a booth at the SoWashCo CARES winter packing event in November, where they handed out fliers. The Scouts spoke at a Cottage Grove Lions' meeting, which the group made a donation and helped connect the Scouts to other supporters. Thrivent Financial donated a gift card that was used to buy 910 snacks. Cub Foods donated drop boxes.

The pilot program launched last spring at Bailey, Middleton and Woodbury elementary schools.

"We communicate with the social workers in the schools and they let us know when they need snacks," Miller said.

They've earned their Silver Awards, but the two Scouts — Carter moved away — have continued the S.N.A.C.K. program.

"All three of us are lucky to have very privileged lives," Miller, 15 said.

To donate, visit https://sites.google.com/view/the-snack-program.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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