ABOVE, VOLUNTEERS GATHER on a Thursday night to pack backpacks of food for local children in need through Saratoga's SNACPack program.Below, backpacks await hungry children.
ABOVE, VOLUNTEERS GATHER on a Thursday night to pack backpacks of food for local children in need through Saratoga's SNACPack program.
Below, backpacks await hungry children.
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Karey Trimmings of St. Clement's parish in Saratoga is fighting poverty in the Saratoga Springs City School District.

Mrs. Trimmings is the founder of the Saratoga Nutrition Assistance for Children Pack program, or "SNACPack."

"We wanted it to rhyme with 'backpack,'" she said, noting that the program gained inspiration from Feeding America's popular BackPack Program.

The program fills backpacks with food for local children in need to take home over the weekends. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Saratoga Springs has a poverty rate of 7.6 percent.

Many of the children who benefit from SNACPack get free breakfasts and lunches through their schools on weekdays, but were going hungry over the weekends. The SNACPack program provides food items that children are able to prepare themselves, in case their parents are absent or unable to make meals for them.

The idea came from Richard, a foster child who came to live with the Trimmings family. After about a year, Richard began to open up about the hard times he'd faced when he was with his birth mother.

Uncooked ramen
"There were times when he ate dry ramen noodles because they didn't have a pot to cook it in," Mrs. Trimmings told The Evangelist.

Richard's story, as well as Mrs. Trimmings's own background as an elementary school music teacher, inspired the family to reach out to St. Clement's outreach and social justice ministry about meeting local children's food needs.

The SNACPack program started January 2015, serving the district's six elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Every Friday afternoon, about 105 backpacks are distributed.

"This is a population of kids who, for whatever reason, aren't getting much food at home," said Lisa Kent, pastoral associate for outreach and social justice at St. Clement's.

Students or parents aren't able to sign up for the program, Ms. Kent and Mrs. Trimmings stressed. In order for the youths to participate, teachers or other school staff must notice signs of hunger.

Empty bellies
"There are physical signs that teachers are told to look for," said Ms. Kent, citing falling asleep in class, gorging on snacks when they are available or the inability to concentrate during a lesson.

The names of students who seem to have a need are brought to a board that reviews them. Before a student can get a backpack of food, the school nurse must note any food allergies he or she has.

"If there are any special food needs, then we are told about it and that backpack is set aside so we can deal with it separately," said Mrs. Trimmings, noting that the program can accommodate gluten, peanut and other allergies.

The SNACPacks are assembled on Thursday nights by about 25 volunteers. Mrs. Trimmings likes to remind the volunteers that every one of the backpacks is feeding a family for a weekend, so nothing should be overlooked or forgotten.

Meals for months
The program uses a rotating five-week menu. Three meals and a snack are provided for both days of the weekend; meals range from cereal and milk for breakfast to mac and cheese for dinner. Typical snacks for the backpacks include fruit cups or protein bars.

Currently, the SNACPack program runs under the supervision of St. Clement's, but Mrs. Trimmings is working toward making it an independent non-profit. Each backpack costs about $13, making the weekly SNACPack expenses pretty hefty for the parish outreach program, which already serves about 7,000 people a year.

The Trimmings family hopes to be able to raise enough funds to keep the program going -- ideally even through the summer.

(For more information or to donate or volunteer, go to www.snacpackprogram.com or www.facebook.com/snacpackprogram.)