UPDATE: The Food Bank will be able to continue providing Sack Packs to students in need around the Tennessee Valley thanks to donations from the community.

In December, the Food Bank announced that due to lack of funding they would have to put the program on hold in eight of the twenty counties they serve.

Donors from around Chattanooga began giving to help fund the program through the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

In a statement, Gina Crumbliss, Food Bank President and CEO, said:

“It has been an awe-inspiring and humbling experience to witness people from all walks of life, the corporate world and the media come out in droves to offer their support. Having the funds to restart the Sack Pack Program for the remaining 19 weeks of the school year has been an absolute blessing to the 1776 students who depend on this little bundle of nutritious food to eat over the weekend.” 

One family donated their Christmas money to the cause. That donor said, "she and her family decided to take the money they would normally spend on Christmas presents and donate it to the Food Bank for the Sack Pack Program, instead." 

The Food Bank has now turned their focus to the future. They are researching new ways to help fight weekend hunger.

Food Bank Board Chairman John Clark said,

"While the problem has been resolved for now, the challenge will be to design a cost-effective means of serving these clients for the 2018-19 school year and beyond. We are encouraged but not surprised by these donations.  Our community is extremely philanthropic. We are humbled by this outpouring of support and we hope there are individuals and businesses in the eight counties (Hamilton, Marion, Grundy, Sequatchie, Meigs, Polk, Van Buren and Walker) with the financial capability that will be inspired to adopt their area schools and ensure that the nutritional needs of students are met."

You can donate to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank online or by calling their Director of Development Sarah Aligo at 423-622-1800.

One dollar can provide four meals, and 97 cents of each dollar goes to support food and programs.


PREVIOUS STORY: Tuesday was the last day of school for Hamilton County students before the holidays break, but it was also the last sack pack meal many of them will receive for the rest of the school year. 

The Chattanooga Area Food Bank (CAFB) is ending its Sack Packs program.

They say it's because their funding has dropped due to donations going toward this year's natural disasters. 

The Sack Pack meals provide nutrition for children who might otherwise go hungry. Each sack contains basic, healthy food items—cereal, milk, juice, fruit, granola bars, soup, and even recipes—that will help sustain children through the weekend. It only costs $3.00 per meal.

The decision to end the program came last week. The food bank sent an email to volunteers notifying them of the change on Friday. 

Channel 3 visited the CAFB and were shown handwritten letters by students on display. Students explained how much the program means to them. It's why President and CEO, Gina Crumbliss says ending the program is heartbreaking. 

"On a personal level every single one of us is devastated and we’ve all had our time crying, but it’s difficult." 

The CAFB serves 20 counties; eight of them will no longer have the Sack Pack program. 

"In this particular case we know it’s exactly 1,776 students who won’t be receiving sack packs for the remainder of the school year which is 19 weeks," said Crumbliss. 

CAFB funds 19 schools when it comes to the Sack Pack program. The program costs $171, 632 annually. Crumbliss says it's their most expensive program. 

Here's what it would cost to fund the program in each county impacted through the rest of the school year: 
 

Marion  $18,533.74
Grundy  $14,746.66
Sequatchie $4,303.50
Meigs $9,525.08
Polk  $4,303.50
Van Buren  $1,721.40
Walker  $18,074.70
Hamilton $30,698.30
Total  $101,906.88

"If we break it down into bite-size increments and depend heavily on the business owners, the manufactures, utilities, banks in those counties we would be able to continue the sack pack program," said Crumbliss. 

The program can be saved, but not without the help of each community. 

"We are here. We have the drivers. We are ready to go, but we need the funding to be able to buy those supplies to make those sack bags and distribute them in those counties," said Crumbliss.