Weekend Food. Kids are Hungry in our Community.Bookmark this
Most of us look forward to weekends, anticipating family fun – backyard barbecues, soccer games and Little League, It’s hard to comprehend that for many children in San Antonio, weekends represent a food desert, with uncertainty about whether they will have enough to eat.
This scenario is the plight of thousands of local children. In fact 10-20 percent of those who receive free and reduced school lunch typically suffer from weekend food insecurity, said Leslie Kingman founder and volunteer executive director of Snack Pak 4 Kids (SP4KSA), a ministry providing food every weekend to thousands of students needing supplemental nourishment.
It can be because of job loss, a parenting issue, substance abuse, Kingman said, listing reasons children may be food insecure. “We have a lot of grandmothers raising kids. Many of our families are just barely getting by.”
Kingman attended a conference whose speaker challenged her to be more intentional in her efforts to share God’s love with others, she explained. “Our church (Grace Northridge) was already in relationship with a school,” she said. “We were doing events and Christmas giving, but we were looking for something that displayed a more consistent representation of how God is there for us. He doesn’t just drop by. He’s not there just at the holidays. We wanted a way to convey his consistent love.” She was connected with Snack Pack 4 Kids’ flagship program in Amarillo, which inspired her to replicate their model in San Antonio seven years ago.
“This is a great volunteer opportunity for a church because it opens the door to create a positive relationship with a school using an existing model with structure and organization”
Lack of nutrition creates anxiety, with associated behavior and learning difficulties. SP4KSA currently feeds more than 2,000 chronically hungry kids in 24 schools in San Antonio by providing Snack Paks of name-brand, brand new food every Friday to children identified by teachers as those who lack nutritional resources on the weekend, Kingman said. Snack Paks include 100 percent juice, cereal, peanuts, crackers, a beef stick, milk –all things that can be opened and administered by a child as young as four. SP4KSA has been able to negotiate a very favorable contract with Labatt Food Service to keep contents and pricing consistent.
While most of the food is purchased, SP4KSA does accept community donations of new 16-18 ounce jars of creamy peanut butter. Snack Paks are supplemented each month with a jar of peanut butter to provide additional protein, which is not a budgeted item. Peanut butter arrives at SP4KSA’s warehouse in a variety of ways – sometimes a pre-school, neighborhood or community group will sponsor a drive; others donate individually. A surprisingly popular method – Amazon Prime delivery. Kingman is always delighted when the Amazon truck arrives at their warehouse on 3559 Belgium Lane (78219.) Another success story, for the past several years Brandeis and Johnson High Schools have dubbed their first game of the football season as the “Peanut Butter Bowl” and donate thousands of jars from their contest.
SP4KSA enlists the help of volunteers to staff the ministry. Once a month, more than 200 individuals meet at the warehouse in Daily Bread Ministries near the AT&T Center to pack thousands of bags. A month’s shipment now entails more than $20,000 worth of product, contained on 15 pallets, Kingman said. Businesses, civic organizations, churches and neighborhood groups commit to “adopt” a school in one of the four districts served – SAISD, NISD, NEISD and AHISD. The partner or church will create teams who deliver the packed bags Friday mornings to the specific school classrooms of the children signed up for the program. They also are responsible to pay for the cost of the food for the students at the school they select. Numbers vary – the largest schools may serve 140 students; their smallest, 11. Grace Northridge funds SP4KSA in their church budget, so only the direct cost of the food is passed on to sponsoring groups.
“When a church or group partners with SP4KSA, it is not just about the food. It is about impacting learning and creating a sense of community as well,”
“This is a great volunteer opportunity for a church because it opens the door to create a positive relationship with a school using an existing model with structure and organization,” Kingman said. “When a church or group partners with SP4KSA, it is not just about the food. It is about impacting learning and creating a sense of community as well,” she added.
Once the food has arrived, teachers discreetly place the Snack Paks in the backpack of each student while the class is out of the room. The surreptitious distribution is an important element.
“Everything we do is about dignity and respect for the child. We want each child to feel important, valued and cared for,” Kingman said.
SP4KSA surveys teachers involved. Last year 142 of 390 teachers took additional time to add comments to their responses. Examples include:
“As a school counselor, I have gotten great feedback from this program. Students feel cared for, and families are very appreciative. This has definitely made a huge impact in our school community. Thanks you for all your caring support and effort.”
“Kids have shared with me that sometimes this is the only food they have when they are not in school.”
“Students who had trouble focusing due to hunger issues at home have shown vast improvement. Thank you for the amazing things you do!”
“Every time a Snack Pak was handed to them they knew someone cared.”
The testimonials from those who daily pour out their lives serving the least of these say it all. Let’s end child hunger with Church involvement. Snack Pak 4 Kids is a great start!
Thank you from SP4Ks and the Beacon to the Anonymous Donor that made this article possible.
Be A Light.
Join. Get you church or business to adopt a school and supply food for hungry children. Volunteer. Contact the ministry for ways you can volunteer. Provide. Consider a tax-deductible gift to offset the cost of food o to help the ministry expand. Pray. Pray for the staff and volunteers of SP4KSA. Pray for those they serve to break the cycle of poverty in the power of Christ.