Feeding school kids year-round
Snack Pak 4 Kids of San Antonio provides weekend food assistance during the school year. They are not funded by the summer nutrition programs. They focus on closing the weekend gap between school meals for the most distressed children in San Antonio. During the summer, they provide the same type of food — non-perishable, brand name food children can eat without the assistance of adults.
During the school year, the food is delivered directly to schools, where teachers place it in children’s backpacks. During the summer, volunteers drive food to students’ houses, provided parents have signed permission slips. Sometimes they hand the food to the child or family. Sometimes they leave it on the stoop because no one answers the door.
One of the summer Snack Pak 4 Kids bags that is delivered to kids once a week when school is not in session. Wendi Poole
“We don’t just deliver food … we say we are an education enhancement tool,” said Leslie Kingman, volunteer executive director of Snack Pak 4 Kids. “During the school year we can confirm that. Now, during the summer, we basically just feed because we can’t imagine not.
“We can’t say we care about kids if we don’t care about them year round … If these kids are hungry during the school year, then, oh my gosh, what must the summer look like?”
The children that Snack Pak 4 Kids feed have been identified by their teachers as students who likely suffer from chronic hunger. Kingman estimates that only about 10 to 20 percent of the students who receive meals through school-sponsored federal programs are chronically hungry.
That means the children she is feeding are some of the hungriest in the city.
“There are a lot of issues other than food,” Kingman says. “Our hope is that if we take care of the hunger issue the (families) will be able to take care of the other things in their lives.”
Many of the children her program feeds are latch-key kids, meaning they are left home alone all day. Volunteers will knock on the door and hear the TV, but no one will answer.
Every year, Snack Pak 4 Kids has doubled the number of children it has served — not because there is more need, necessarily, but because they have become better able to identify the need that already exists.
Snack Pak 4 Kids volunteers left the food bags on the door of an apartment after no one answered their knocks. Wendi Poole
This year, there are 30 different volunteer routes that crisscross the city. Volunteers are delivering food for about 800 children, and Snack Pak 4 Kids is providing weekend food assistance for an additional 150 children through Catholic Charities.
“It breaks your heart,” Kingman said, speaking about a route she drove earlier this summer. “It is just incredible the need out there and I don’t really care why. All I care about is that kids are served. As far as I can tell, if you’re 5 years old and you don’t have enough to eat, it is not your fault.”
This article was originally published by the H.E. Butt Foundation’s Folo Media initiative in 2017.