Frontlines

Nourishing Bodies, Nourishing Souls

"A Thess Bar, which contains 20 vitamins and minerals, can be “a tool for those addressing poverty and homelessness."

Jones Chan has been in the food and supplement industry for more than 40 years, developing products for several consumer-packaged goods companies. About five years ago, Jones felt a call from the Lord to care for the impoverished around the world using his skills and abilities. From there, he set off on a journey to figure out how to accomplish that goal. 

He reached out to Francis Chan, preacher and host of the “Crazy Love” podcast, who gave him some guidance and connected him with non-governmental organization (NGO) partners doing work with food scarcity in places such as Ethiopia and Uganda. This connection gave Jones access to a kitchen to use for developing products for those countries. With one product he developed, a protein meal bar, Jones says the Lord provided an opportunity to work with another NGO to produce and distribute the bar to refugee families in Afghanistan. All told, they made 30 metric tons.

But that was just the beginning for Jones. One night, while that project was ongoing, he was driving through downtown San Francisco. At a stoplight, a homeless woman was pushing a cart through lanes of traffic in the rain, looking for a place to stay for the night.

 “As she was approaching my car, I knew I should do something, but I didn’t know what to do and I got a little frazzled as she came closer,” said Jones. “I looked away and she passed me by. That night, the Lord really spoke to my heart.” Jones was challenged by that missed opportunity to consider how he could’ve helped that woman, and how he could help others like her in the future. “How do I provide a simple, nutritious food product for those who have the most need of access to good nutrition?” 

These Bar

So, Jones set to work, using the skillset he’d cultivated over his career to create a tasty, nutritious product designed for the unhoused and those who didn’t have access to a healthy meal. “That’s how Thess Bar came to be.” The name comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NASB).

A Thess Bar, which contains 20 vitamins and minerals, can be “a tool for those addressing poverty and homelessness,” says Jones. “People don’t really get what happens when someone is undernourished. For instance, if you were deficient in just B1, you could be chronically fatigued to a point where you just can’t get up. You could have depression, irritability, mood swings, low immunity … and eventually it could lead to congestive heart failure. A simple thing like B1 can address some major contributors of health issues. So, imagine a shelter where a majority of people are food insecure [and] likely undernourished. Depression, irritability and low immunity can be mitigated with a little bit of vitamins. The shelter could be much calmer, everyone’s a little bit healthier and stronger.” Jones goes on to say that Thess Bar could also be utilized in disaster relief situations where people perhaps haven’t eaten for days or longer. Eating too much would put their system into shock, but eating something small like a Thess Bar would be manageable for their stomachs while simultaneously providing much needed calories and vitamins. 

But Jones didn’t stop there. He says that during the development of Thess Bar, God continued to challenge him with new ways it could further His kingdom. “It was like, ‘That’s great, you have a great tasting nutrition bar. So how about including my gospel message in it?’” In response to this challenge, every Thess Bar has a QR code on the packaging. When scanned, it sends you to a webpage with several short videos designed to deliver the good news of the Bible in succinct, impactful messages. There’s also a portal on the page, supported by Gloo, which allows you to connect with a local church for further assistance and spiritual guidance. Thess Bar was truly crafted to be a comprehensive aid for the mind, body and spirit.

“What we’re trying to do is be a conduit of compassion, provide physical and spiritual substance, the way Jesus did it, and help people connect … especially with the church.”

With the bar finished, the goal became getting it into food banks, homeless encampments and out on the streets. Last year, Major Daniel Freeman, The Salvation Army’s Silicon Valley Coordinator, California, got his hands on some Thess Bars and started passing them out to the unhoused. “I am so impressed by the vision Jones was given for developing these food bars,” said Major Freeman. “This idea takes what feels like a complicated process of collecting and distributing safe, healthy food and simplifies it to a bar that you could easily keep in your backpack or car to hand out. Not only is it in The Salvation Army’s mission statement to meet human need and share the gospel, but it’s also mandated again throughout the Bible to care for the marginalized. The simple act of handing a food bar to the unhoused acknowledges that they are seen, they are valued, they are loved and there is hope.” 

Jones remarked on how the mission of Thess Bar aligns with much of The Salvation Army’s ethos. Many remember William Booth’s famous phrase “soup, soap, and salvation,” which signifies the commitment to meeting an individual’s physical needs along with their spiritual needs. A tool like Thess Bar can serve as a reminder of this commitment to Salvationists everywhere. 

Organizations can buy Thess Bars in bulk, but individuals can get involved too, either by donating a box to food banks or encampments, or ordering bars to hand out on the streets themselves. Jones is hopeful that this simple tool will activate communities to spread positivity, health and God’s love. If you want to get involved or order Thess Bars for your corps, you can head to thessbar.org to see what they’re all about.

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