According to a recent Snack Pak 4 Kids® survey of AISD counselors and social workers, as many as 3,000 AISD students live with or are being raised by their grandparents or great grandparents. Local AISD counselors indicate the number could be as high as one-third of those 3,000 families are vulnerable to food insecurity at any point during the school year. Grandparent-headed households experiencing food insecurity can have long-term health implications for the entire family and negatively affect a student’s ability to learn and focus in the classroom.
Helping grandparents raising grandkids
A fall 2022 survey of AISD counselors told us there are over 3,000 students in the district being raised by their grandparents. Of these, nearly one third are experiencing food insecurity. The Tillie Project is a potential solution that offers dignity, respect, discretion and choice for these grandfamilies.
Why The Tillie Project?
To address the “grandfamily” food insecurity hidden in our community and impacting our students, Snack Pak 4 Kids® created The Tillie Project. Two years ago, Tillie, a 73 year old retired teacher, drove across town seeking assistance through the summer Snack Pak drive-thru program to provide food for her two great-grandsons who were living with her at the time. She made too much money to qualify for traditional senior resources. Her story compelled us to look deeper, ask more questions, and ultimately start the program. Her family blessed our organization that summer as she and her great grandsons benefited from Snack Pak bags, and also joined in the effort to pack bags and hand them out each Friday.
Examining the community’s needs
Over the past years, Snack Pak 4 Kids has surveyed thousands of students. Each year we ask students if they’re sharing their Snack Pak with anyone and consistently see that 8-10% of our students are sharing with their grandparents. This continued to reinforce the need in our community to examine the needs of our grandparents raising their grandkids.
Improving overall health
Five years ago, with financial support from the Mary E. Bivins Foundation and High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation, Snack Pak 4 Kids began feeding seniors through a partnership with Heal the City free medical clinic.Our data and study with Heal the City indicated there was a statistically significant difference in their weight loss and BMI, and a trend for improvements in their glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. We continue to do a weekly grocery program for a group of Heal the City seniors. This model has now been implemented at Amarillo Wesley Community Center and Bivins Village.
The Tillie Project joins a complement of services that Snack Pak 4 Kids has been building for twelve years: Snack Pak 4 Kids® for students pre-K-8th grade, Snack Shak for high school students, Nutrition 4 Change food services for organizations outside of K-12, and our buying cooperative, which makes brand new, brand name food available and affordable to organizations and schools around the state. Other partners in our Nutrition 4 Change program include Amarillo College, City of Amarillo, Texas Oncology, BSA Hospital, Baptist Community Services, Northwest Texas Healthcare, and Harrington Cancer Center.
“Our grandmother was so grateful! It was a sudden need and she did not have prior experience on resources so she did not know where to turn. The process of ordering was so easy and the box was delivered the same day that we ordered. AMAZING!”Ashley PalmerCounselor, deZavala Middle School
“The Mary E. Bivins Foundation has been committed to addressing food insecurity among older adults living in the Texas Panhandle for over five years. The Foundation is proud to be a part of the effort to address this critical community need.”Katharyn WiegandPresident and Chief Executive Officer, Mary E. Bivins Foundation
“For over a decade, Snack Pak 4 Kids has been working to end weekend hunger for Amarillo ISD students. What started as a vision and act of service to 10 elementary students at Will Rogers Elementary in 2010, has grown to provide for thousands of children each week and over holiday breaks. From the original grocery style bag of shelf-stable food to the Snack Shak concept for high school students, this organization has once again recognized a unique need related to food insecurity with their newly implemented The Tillie Project. Grandparents hold a special place in the hearts of many people. The project supports those special grandparents in Amarillo who are serving as the primary guardian or caregiver for students.”Kevin PhillipsDeputy Superintendent for Amarillo Independent School District