The San Antonio Food Bank received more than 3 million pounds of fresh produce during its fifth annual Harvest to the Heart food drive this week, the largest produce donation to date, officials said Wednesday. A large portion of the donation was provided by grocery chain H-E-B, but also includes contributions from farmers, local distributors, and food brokers. Harvest to the Heart’s mission is to provide food-insecure families with fresh produce during winter, when donations of produce are relatively scarce.
“As a community, we struggle with high rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, which are all nutrition issues,” said Food Bank President and CEO Eric Cooper. “When you’re fighting hunger, it takes a healthy dose of produce. This is for low-income families that struggle with the dollars to get those healthy foods. We are here to educate and help the children understand where their food comes from.”
The Food Bank wants to encourage children and families to eat more produce and see healthy food as an important part of daily life. Recent droughts left many farmers struggling, and Food Bank officials were expecting the donations to be less than the 2.6 million pounds received last year. But corporations and farmers pulled together to break the record, officials said.
“People actually believe that we don’t give out produce, but 40% of what we distribute is produce,” Cooper said. “Over half of what we distribute is perishable. … There will soon be 75 semi-trucks taking food from the San Antonio Food Bank to families all throughout South Texas.”
The San Antonio Food Bank feeds 58,000 families in South Texas each week.
H-E-B employees and event volunteers built a “winter wonderland” display entirely from fresh produce donations at the Food Bank’s pavilion for Wednesday’s announcement. The produce will be packaged and distributed to families throughout South Texas in the remaining days of December. H-E-B will also donate a bag of fresh produce to Pre-K 4 SA students and their families on Friday.
“If we all do something to help someone in need, it goes a long way,” Cooper said.
Students from Pre-K 4 SA’s west campus were present on Wednesday for a guided tour of the Food Bank’s farms, a hay ride with Santa Claus, and a meeting with San Antonio Fire Department Mascot “Sparky.” One student group was invited to touch the artichokes. Most of them were unsure if they had eaten artichokes before, but they were disappointed that the crops “didn’t smell like chocolate.”
*Top Image: President and CEO of San Antonio Food Bank Eric Cooper gives remarks. Photo by Scott Ball.