Residents in low-income housing complexes across San Antonio on Friday received around 44,000 pounds of food to help curb the risk of food insecurity that many experience during the summer months when children are on break from school.
The citywide effort to provide nutritious meals to 1,200 families was led by Community Housing Resource Partners, a nonprofit dedicated to helping low-income residents maintain stable homes and communities by providing support services including food assistance, child care, and adult education programs.
The nonprofit, which is celebrating its 25th year of service to low-income communities, only recently began providing food boxes to residents. That quickly became the No. 1 service requested, the organization's CEO Meghan Garza-Oswald said.
“Once someone has a roof over their head … we can’t forget that there is still some support required to help families do well,” she said.
The summer months often leave families at a loss on how to provide three nutritious meals per day since most children who live in low-income housing receive free or reduced lunch at school, Garza-Oswald said. “A fast-food diet is far less expensive than an organic, healthy diet for these families,” she added.
To provide food boxes to 400 low-income families costs up to $500, Garza-Oswald said. The nonprofit provides the service to each affordable housing community operated by the San Antonio Housing Authority once a month on varied dates.
A $2,500 grant from H-E-B enabled the nonprofit to distribute food to all low-income housing residents on the same day, with enough funding left for another citywide distribution that will take place toward the end of the year.
When the Rivard Report visited the San Juan Square housing complex, cars were lined up around the block to secure a 40-pound food box which included chicken, cereal, bread, milk, peanut butter, fruit, and vegetables.
Vanessa, a San Juan Square resident who requested to go by first name only, came to pick up food with her school-aged daughter. She said the food assistance has been helpful because her Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits were recently cut to $170 per month for her family of three.
“Since my benefits were lowered it's been really hard,” she said. “This is necessary for me right now, and I wouldn’t take it if I didn’t need it.”
One in four children in San Antonio experience food insecurity, according to the San Antonio Food Bank, which provided the food to Community Housing Resource Partners at around 15 cents per pound.
Amber, who asked to be named by first name only, lives at a different Housing Authority property, but traveled to San Juan Square to pick up a box of food with her husband. A full-time student, Amber is currently employed only part-time. Her husband is disabled and unemployed, she said, which further limits their household income.
“I am on WIC [the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children] and food stamps, and it does help us – but it’s not enough,” Amber said, noting that she receives $163 in monthly SNAP benefits for her family of three. “I still need to use a lot of resources,” such as the mobile food pantry events Alamo Colleges provides for its students and resource fairs at churches and throughout her community.
“Providing food to low-income residents is a critical supportive service because families are struggling to put healthy food on the table,” Garza-Oswald said. “Families need to be in a stress-free environment to maximize their potential.”