By Mary Sheerin, AHSP Volunteer

The Andes Healthy SnakPak [AHSP] program resumed when the Andes School opened in September. With an increase in the school population, we are now providing weekend snacks for the 42 enrolled students from Pre-K through 3rd grade. Volunteers meet at the Andes Presbyterian Church at 1 pm on Fridays to prepare the snacks and assemble them in separate paper bags. This week four of us washed fresh fruits and vegetables; separated crackers and cheeses; divided trail mix into individual packets, and then distributed them in the bags. We bring the whole to the school just across the street. There, staff members give each child a bag to take home as they depart for the weekend.

The program, conceived by School Superintendent Dr. Robert Chakar and Councilman Tom Joyce, began in April, 2014. Everyone involved is a volunteer; we take turns, depending on availability, purchasing the food items on Thursdays and preparing the packs on Fridays. We’ve taken advantage of the bounty of fresh foods available in fall; the packs have included cherry tomatoes – newly harvested by volunteer Dennis DeVita from his garden – local pears, as well as regular items like carrots, trail mix, whole grain crackers.

The rationale for the program is obvious in light of the displays of processed, sugar-rich foods that line the supermarket shelves. Children often know only of such items as choices for their snacks. Our goal is that as they experience delicious alternatives, they and their parents will choose similar items for snacks and meals at home. Toward the end of the academic year we send short questionnaires home in the packs, asking parents for specific feedback on the program. We have received strongly positive responses that often include helpful suggestions.

We recently placed labeled glass jars for contributions at the sites of several local businesses, e.g., Paisley’s, Tin Horn, Andes General Store. Since local donations are our basic source of fundraising, we hope this effort will provide a regular income stream.

As winter approaches, a few volunteers leave the area until spring. This leaves us short of the help we need for purchasing, preparing, and assembling the packs. Anyone who is interested in helping, even if only sporadically, please contact Buffy Calvert at 845-676-3986.~