The demand for food assistance on the weekend continues to rise for children across the Panhandle.
Snack Pak 4 Kids said it has seen a 25 percent increase in the number of children using their program over the past year.
"At first you're like, oh my goodness! What's going on? Why is there an increase? But I think the real significance of why we're seeing an increase is the teachers have seen a significant benefit in this program and what it does for their students," said Snack Pak 4 Kids representative Dyron Howell.
Howell said 64 percent of teachers noticed academic improvement in students who use the weekend program. Since last October, 400 more students rely on the Snack Pak program each weekend. That number is expected to go up even more.
A recent survey found the need for weekend meals expands beyond just elementary school students. "About 90 percent of our kids were sharing with siblings," said Howell. To address that need, Snack Pak plans to roll out programs to every middle school and high school in the area within the next couple years.
It costs $3.50 a bag to feed elementary kids on the weekend. However, the amount of food normally in a bag isn't enough to feed kids in middle school and high school. Bags to feed older students cost almost double.
Howell said there are 1,500 older students in need of the program. It will cost Snack Pak half a million dollars to feed the additional 1,500 students, but he said he isn't worried about finding the extra funds. "Donors support this program because they see a difference in what this program does for the students."
Howell said the Snack Pak program will eventually feed almost 5,000 kids each week.