Tan’s Treats: Giving Children the Nutrition They Need to Succeed
By Diane Del Toro
Tanner Holt was a student at Diamond Valley Elementary School when he noticed that his classmate never had anything to eat for lunch. Gifted with a generous heart and a desire to help anyone in need, Tanner began secretly giving his own lunch to his hungry friend each day. It did not take long for his mother, Diane, to notice that her son came home daily with a ravenous hunger, something that did not make sense considering the large and nutritious meal she packed for him each morning. After some questioning, she discovered Tanner’s secret act of kindness. Impressed by his willingness to share, Diane began sending him with two lunches each day so that both boys could eat.
It was this experience from Tanner’s life that became the inspiration for Tan’s Treats. When Tanner died in a tragic accident at the age of 23, his devastated family struggled to find a way to channel their grief. Already sensitive to the reality of childhood hunger, Diane discovered that children who qualified for reduced-price or free school lunch were going without meals on the weekends when school food programs were not available. The Holt family stepped in to fill the gap, founding Tan’s Treats in 2016 as a way to honor Tanner’s memory and to demonstrate his continued influence in their lives. Tan’s Treats provides weekend meals for children in need. “It is the perfect gift to a little boy who gave his lunch away,” explained Diane.
Each Thursday afternoon, volunteers gather at the Tan’s Treats warehouse in St. George to fill food sacks destined for hundreds of hungry children attending schools in Washington County. Each food sack contains six meals and two snacks—enough to feed a child for two days. Extra meals are included for long weekends, and long-term sacks are provided for Christmas break and spring recess. Food sacks are delivered to participating elementary schools each Friday morning for distribution. Deciding who receives the sacks is left to each individual school, with classroom teachers, Title 1 Coordinators, and parents collaborating together to determine need.
These needs can often be over-looked in an affluent retirement community like Southern Utah, but surprising statistics reveal the scope of childhood hunger: 44% of all Washington County elementary school students qualify to received free or reduced-price meals; one family out of five in Washington County struggles to provide meals on a consistent basis; and of the twenty-five elementary schools in the Washington County School District, thirteen are Title 1 schools. “Sometimes we think in our little pocket community that everything is dandy and children aren’t hungry,” said Jay Porter, Title 1 Coordinator at Red Mountain Elementary. “We have a lot of single-parent, low-income families who (struggle) to make ends meet.” While Tan’s Treats provides these parents with financial relief and peace of mind, its main purpose is to ensure that children are nourished over the weekend so that they can arrive at school each Monday morning prepared for the school week.
This goal is the driving force behind the rapid growth of the organization: the first food delivery two years ago contained 51 sacks of food, and the most recent delivery contained 653 sacks of food—nearly 4000 individual meals. Understandably, keeping the warehouse shelves stocked is a perpetual challenge, so community involvement is always welcome.
Although the Holts will always feel the loss of their son Tanner, his memory lives on in the remarkable work they do in his behalf. And in spite of their drive to feed nearly 700 children each weekend, the memory of Tanner’s focus on just one classmate who was hungry keeps the Holts acutely aware of the needs of each individual child. Tan’s Treats is fighting childhood hunger—one child at a time.
Individuals, businesses, and groups can participate in the following ways:
• Donate cash on the Tan’s Treats website using Venmo®, Paypal®, or credit card. It costs $20 to feed one child for a month, but any donation amount is gratefully accepted.
• Donate food or organize a food drive. Easy-open, easily prepared foods are preferred. These include Easy Mac®, Pop-Tarts®, instant oatmeal, fruit cups, pop-top individual meals and soups, ramen noodles, granola bars, Vienna sausage, tuna, canned chicken, and applesauce cups or pouches.
• Host a fundraiser. Dozens of ideas for fund-raising are found on their website TansTreats.com
• Donate time by delivering to local schools or by helping to fill food sacks.