Members of Grace Northridge Church assemble summer snack packs in their new church building.

Members of Grace Northridge Church assemble summer snack packs in their new church building.

In 2011, if you’d asked Leslie Kingman, a member of Grace Northridge Church in San Antonio, how she was doing on community outreach, she would tell you she was doing pretty well.

“In my old way of thinking, outreach was pretty simple,” recounted Kingman. “You found a project, you did a project, and then the project was over.”

Then, in 2012, Kingman and 13 other members of the newly formed Grace Fellowship Church (now Grace Northridge) attended AMIA’s Winter Conference, where a talk by plenary speaker Reggie McNeal changed the way she thought about outreach.

“Reggie talked about really being the church,” said Kingman. “The church is more than a building, and to reflect Christ day in and day out means that we need to be in the community on an ongoing basis. This means doing more than the occasional project.

“At the end of his talk, I turned to our new senior pastor, Matt Kessler, and said ‘I think we can do that.’ ”

Today, Kingman is the Volunteer Executive Director of Snack Pak 4 Kids San Antonio (SP4KSA), a nonprofit that delivers weekly snack packs to children who struggle with food insecurity in 13 elementary schools in San Antonio, TX.

The Model

Once a month, volunteers gather to assemble snack packs. Each snack pack includes brand name, shelf stable snacks that can be opened and consumed by a child as young as four without adult supervision.

These packs are in turn delivered to participating elementary schools. Each Friday, teachers discreetly place the packs in the book bags of students identified by teachers or school counselors as in need of additional food.

Kingman and her team help coordinate efforts, but the success of the program rests on the churches and civic organizations that adopt the schools.

“Grace Northridge is just the spark,” explained Kingman. “We aren’t running 13 programs, we are facilitating and supporting groups who run their own programs.

“Each group that adopts a school is providing the funding, the hands, and the heart. They build relationships with the school and the community because they are on campus each week. This increases the morale of the school and makes an incredible difference.”

 The Story

When she returned from Winter Conference in 2012, Kingman visited the school counselor of Lamar Elementary School. Though most students were receiving free or reduced lunches while at school, many of them were heading home to empty pantries on nights and weekends.

A friend put Kingman in touch with Snack Pak for Kids, a nonprofit in the Texas Panhandle. In the fall of 2012, Grace Fellowship partnered with them and launched the program in San Antonio at Lamar Elementary.

“This is really a story of how God takes what we have if we are willing to trust Him and blesses it,” explained Kingman. “We have just come to expect that if we are faithful and do our best, God will provide and come through.”

One such instance was the launch of their summer program. After SP4KSA’s first academic year, someone encouraged Kingman to continue providing snack packs into the summer.

“I had my doubts,” said Kingman. “But that Christmas, a friend of mine gave me a $5,000 check towards SP4KSA. So I figured we were supposed to run a summer program!”

The Results

The first year SP4KSA ran at Lamar, the elementary school rose from 167th to 8th place in overall performance of San Antonio Schools. Across the board, participating elementary schools are seeing an increase in attendance, morale, and performance in their students due to issues of hunger being addressed.

“Our ultimate goal and desire is to spread the kingdom of God,” said Kingman. “We believe that what we are doing will impact these kids for life by positively impacting their overall health and ability to learn. What a blessing it is to show these kids to love of God!”

To contact Leslie Kingman, email [email protected].

Watch Kingman’s talk at AMIA Winter Conference 2014.

Register for AMIA’s 2016 Winter Conference.