Polk State soccer players want to help make sure local kids have food to eat over the weekend.
The team recently volunteered to kelp kidsPACK provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for children who might otherwise go hungry over the weekend.
For many children, breakfast and lunch at school can be the only source of meals.
Based in Lakeland, kidsPACK packs and delivers meals to more than 1,000 elementary school children each week.
"The problem is, that number is just under half of the estimated 2,400 homeless school-aged children in Polk County," said Jared Hatcher, kidsPACK board member.
Last week at Highland Park Church in Lakeland, soccer players and coaches helped assemble, pack, and distribute meal kits for kids.
"Working with kidsPACK is such a joy because you are watching kids at a young age give back to kids who they don't know and have fun while doing it," said sophomore Morgan Jones. "It's something special to be a part of."
Each kit contains two breakfast items, two lunch items, and two dinner items.
"The kits are designed to help alleviate child hunger, and not necessarily to ensure adequate meals for the weekend," said Hatcher.
"Also, the food in the kits does not require refrigeration, or a microwave, so the child can eat them by themselves without the help of an adult."
Aubry Hall helps assemble a meal pack. (Photo by Tom Hagerty, Polk State).
Funding and nearly 100 percent of all work required to pack and deliver the kits is done by volunteers like the Eagles soccer team.
"The second those kids ran around the corner, with light in their eyes, and a desire to do anything to help just made me feel so blessed," said sophomore Emmalee Phillips.
"We have so much in the world to be thankful for, and here are 89 kids with a heart on fire for Jesus and his mission to help others. I can't wait to be back monthly and help make a difference in so many lives that we haven't even met yet."
The benefits are long-lasting. Hunger has a direct link to a child's ability to learn as well as health. Studies show that nourished children experience less anxiety, reduced absenteeism, improved attention span, higher academic performance, and increased self-esteem.
"We are grateful for the Polk State soccer team and Steve Linamen's dedication as a coach," said Hatcher. "You're a great example for these young adults."