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Jay Greeson


WTCI’s ongoing documentary series “Greater Chattanooga” showcases some of the best and most heartwarming stories in our area. It started in 2015, and episodes like “Hunger at Home” can be seen on The collection of documentaries are packaged and televised in the fall each year. If you have any questions or want to donate to the Snack Pack Ministries, email Janice Robertson at

WTCI, Chattanooga's PBS affiliate that consistently reaches beyond its financial means, debuted a new series online Wednesday.

It's the next installment of what is a regular digital feature of short documentaries at, and it's a home run.

"This is exactly what a PBS station should be doing in its market," WTCI President Paul Grove said Wednesday.

He's exactly right about the series, which will be broadcast first online and will air on TV in the fall.

And still, with the high praise, Grove is underselling the potential impact of his station's first offering.

"Hunger at Home" is a look back at the overwhelming success of the grassroots effort of the Snack Pack Ministry. It shows the great care and passion of a church-led movement working to help the obscenely high number of kids who are hungry right here in Hamilton County.

The term they use is "food-insecure" and that may be the first euphemistic attempt that actually is more striking than saying hungry kids.

Food-insecure. Read that again.

Think back to when you were a child, and all of the insecurities, from social to school work to everything in between.

Now add the thought of not knowing when your next meal would be.

According to the Snack Pack Ministry numbers, 1 in 4 Hamilton County school kids are hungry on the weekends. That's more than 61,000 who are food-insecure from the time they leave the halls Friday until they return Monday morning.

The local version of the Snack Pack efforts is an effort that has blended blue bags and full hearts. With a home base hosted by Janice Robertson and the East Brainerd Church of Christ, these angels are raising money — and spirits.

"It's a calling and something that has become part of what we do," Robertson said after a meeting of Hamilton County commissioners, who heard about the group's efforts from Commissioner Sabrina Smedley. Smedley volunteered at the most recent bag packing where 4,000 bags were packed in an hour, before the WTCI documentary was debuted before the commission.

It is a calling. And it's a need that must be filled.

Robertson and Co. pack easy-to-eat snacks and options in the bags for the weekends. Right now they are in 12 schools in Hamilton County, and with added funds and volunteers are hoping to add No. 13 next fall.

Want to know the need for this beyond the basic fundamental shame of hungry children? Attendance spikes at lower-income schools on Mondays and Fridays, according to the documentary, in large part because so many kids are looking for food.

"We need donations, because we can buy in such bulk that we can make $1 into four meals," Robertson said Wednesday after the film showed images of an assembly line flashed with volunteers walking bags down table-lined aisles as others placed juice or crackers or macaroni and cheese into the sacks. "Whenever there is a need or a catastrophe, Chattanooga always comes together."

She's right, of course. But our responses to major events, whether a mass shooting, bus crash or tornado, in some ways are instinctive.

But those high-profile events pull us together in the moment. Day-to-day problems like hungry kids become silent killers that too often go unnoticed because there's not a bumper sticker or a hashtag.

There are more and more schools wanting help from the Snack Pack bunch because they need the assistance.

Robertson said Wednesday she recently heard from a school that requested 615 bags a week, and she hopes to find more donors to reach them and even more places in the future.

It's a noble goal to meet the most assumed basic need for children everywhere.

It's a great goal, for sure, both for Robertson and the Snack Packers and the WTCI documentary series.

Contact Jay Greeson at or 423-757-6343.