Grocery giant H-E-B will present the San Antonio Food Bank with a check for $100,000 Wednesday afternoon to contribute to construction costs of a satellite facility that will serve the rapidly growing region in and around New Braunfels. The check will be presented at The Kitchen Table, a food pantry that serves more than 3,000 people per month and is leased by the San Antonio Food Bank.
San Antonio Food Bank President and CEO Eric Cooper said the satellite food bank will increase the scope of the facilities and programs in the New Braunfels area and help get food to those in need at a quicker pace.
“In addition to being able to better serve individuals, we’ll also be able to better serve the agencies in Comal and surrounding counties with having a facility that is a little farther north and more accessible,” Cooper told the Rivard Report in a phone interview Tuesday. “Those agencies currently drive all the way to San Antonio to pick up their food. We’ll be able to more strategically place it in the community.”
The strategic placement of the facility will be helpful during times of emergency or disaster, when food needs to be dispersed to rural areas quickly, he said.
But food isn’t the only thing that the new facility will deliver. It will also expand the Food Bank’s wide range of programs and services that are already in place.
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“We’ll be able to offer culinary training. We’ll be able to do more hot meals through a kitchen. We’ll also bring some gardening components and nutrition education to complement the other programs that we currently have in the community,” Cooper added.
Another major program that the satellite food bank hopes to expand, in conjunction with the economic growth of the IH-35 corridor, is the employment assistance program. Cooper sees this as an opportunity to provide for one of the fastest growing areas in the country.
“That IH-35 corridor is just exploding from people and businesses moving there. As it attracts people that want to come and be a part of that community, the Food Bank wants to ensure that all boats rise in the harbor and everybody (has) an opportunity,” Cooper said. “Sometimes people struggle. They might have heard that there are jobs and they land there in the community, but they don’t have a job yet.”
Cooper wants the Food Bank to be an agency that both residents who seek help and residents who seek to provide help can lean on by connecting individuals to new job opportunities. In fact, Cooper pointed out, part of the reason this facility was able to open is the Food Bank’s partnership with H-E-B, one of the largest employers in the area.
“H-E-B has been involved with the San Antonio Food Bank since its inception. They were part of the founding board. We just couldn’t do what we do to provide for those in need without H-E-B,” Cooper said, adding that H-E-B is the model for corporate philanthropy “Whether that’s the donation of funds, the donation of food, or the numerous volunteers that help out in lots of different ways, we feel very proud of our relationship.”
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He hopes other businesses will follow the San Antonio-based company’s lead as they try to complete the project.
“It’s a relationship that gives us comfort because we know that they’ve got our backs,” Cooper added. “H-E-B was a big contributor to our facility here in San Antonio, and they absolutely wanted to be involved in our new facility there in New Braunfels.”
H-E-B spokesperson Julie Bedingfield touted the company’s willingness to expand their giving as the grocery store chain grows its business. H-E-B donates more than 29 million pounds of food to food banks across the state, Bedingfield said.
“This came at an interesting time where we just opened our third H-E-B in the New Braunfels area,” Bedingfield said. “So, it makes sense that we continue to grow and serve these communities that we would also help our nonprofit partners like the Food Bank in. As populations continue to grow we want to be able to serve them fresh food whether that be in our grocery stores or through our amazing partners like the Food Bank.”
The grocery chain has most recently opened an H-E-B Plus in the New Braunfels area.
The San Antonio Food Bank has already broken ground on the new store which is expected to open in June 2017.
Top image: President and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank Eric Cooper gives a speech at an awards ceremony. Photo by Scott Ball.