The San Antonio Food Bank feeds about 90,000 people a week. Increasingly, that number includes the hundreds of legal migrants who pass through the city each day.
Now, as migration through San Antonio is expected to increase when the pandemic-era policy known as Title 42 is lifted, the Food Bank is seeking donations to help meet migrants’ immediate needs, said President and CEO Eric Cooper.
Since April 2021, more than 185,000 migrants have passed through San Antonio, according to city officials, as part of the legal immigration process. The vast majority are making their way to other cities across the country. The city counts an average of 600 arrivals each day, with more than 500 of those requiring overnight shelter.
To deal with the increase, and the fragmented and disruptive current system, the city recently re-opened its migrant resource center, which closed in 2019, in a new location and with greater capacity. The goal is to serve migrants in a single location, rather than trying to help them at the Greyhound bus station, the airport and shelters, a city spokesman said last week.
The Food Bank, in partnership with the city, is one of a number of nonprofit partners “helping lead the response” to the migrant center, including the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, Travis Park’s Corazón San Antonio and Catholic Charities.
For those looking to help, support can take any number of forms, Cooper said, such as donating money, non-perishable food or other needed items, as well as volunteering, with the Food Bank or any of the other partner agencies.
Cooper said the Food Bank began serving migrants several years ago. At the time, only a small number were passing through San Antonio.
“The numbers were so small, they were hidden, we just really didn’t see it too often,” he said. “They were stopping by a food pantry and getting resources.”
Around 2019, that number began to increase. While many migrants were being detained at the border, those who sought asylum were often driven to San Antonio in buses or vans in high numbers, Cooper said, and dropped off with no coordination, at all times of day and night.
The need became “much larger than any one nonprofit organization could handle,” he said.
According to Cooper, the San Antonio Food Bank has provided 180,000 meals and about 100,000 pounds of consumables to migrants since July 2021.
Needed items include:
- non-perishable food
- new clothing with tags, including baby clothes, socks and underwear
- hygiene items, including travel sizes
- water and Pedialyte
- baby food and related supplies
- new shoes, laces and flip flops
Online donations should include “migrant support” in the comments section of the donation.
Cooper said he sees helping migrants no differently than helping any person whose travel plans are interrupted.
“If you take a flight and you get hung up in a city because of a mechanical or weather or whatever, and now you’re stranded,” he said, “whose responsibility is it to take care of you when you’re stranded? That’s what we’re doing, is stepping up as a community.”