The San Antonio Independent School District, in partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank, will host the latest in its series of drive-thru food distribution events on Wednesday, this one at Alamo Stadium, just ahead of students’ winter break.

These monthly drive-thru events, which rotate locations to reach more families, are part of SAISD’s ongoing effort to alleviate food insecurity within the district.

While the focus of the food drive is families with children enrolled at SAISD, anyone in the district who meets income eligibility requirements, is receiving state or federal benefits or is experiencing a household crisis is eligible, district officials said.

SAISD began monthly food drives in response to the devastating winter freeze of 2021, when many families went days without electricity and water, said Chris Escobar, senior volunteer and partner services coordinator with the district. After the storm, he said the district received an influx of calls from families requesting assistance.

District officials knew they had to mobilize, he said: “It’s hard to ask students to focus [in class] when they are hungry.”

In addition to the food drives, SAISD has established food pantries on six of its campuses, with 17 more coming soon. Schools also regularly give out grocery bundles and Friday snack bags to families and students, Escobar said.

The grocery bundles, which consist of perishable and nonperishable food, are given away at campus-hosted events. Students receive snack bags, which often contain apples and other fruit, on Fridays, so they have snacks to eat over the weekend. 

The San Antonio Food Bank provides SAISD with enough food to serve up to 800 families, said Michael Guerra, chief development officer for the San Antonio Food Bank. Each family will receive roughly 80 to 100 pounds of food, including grains, veggies, protein and dairy, he said. 

The Food Bank serves 29 counties including Bexar County and partners with 800 different organizations across their service area. According to Guerra, 350,000 people in the county are food insecure — 35% of whom are children.

The problem is widespread: Texas is ranked second in the nation for food insecurity with 1 in 6 living in food-insecure homes, according to the Food Bank.

As the third largest school district in San Antonio, SAISD serves just over 45,000 students, almost 88% of whom are considered economically disadvantaged.

“Partnerships with groups like the SAISD team are integral to setting the table for families facing hunger,” said Guerra. “And as we approach a holiday break, when hundreds of thousands of kids won’t have access to school meals, a partnership with a school district provides us a direct conduit to get groceries to families at risk for hunger during the holidays.”

Although Wednesday’s event starts at 9 a.m., Escobar said he expects cars to begin lining up at 6 a.m. because the food will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis, while supplies last.

Families are encouraged but not required to pre-register online by Dec. 13. Volunteers will be on site on the day of the drive with iPads to register those who did not pre-register.

The next SAISD food drive will take place Jan. 25, also at Alamo Stadium.

Rebeca Gomez

Rebeca Gomez is a San Antonio-based writer with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting from Boston University. She is a lecturer and full-time staff member at UTSA.