SAN ANTONIO – At shortly after 3 a.m. on a recent Thursday morning, Elias Gonzalez made a mad dash into a Starbucks coffee shop near downtown.
Although he had been driving all night, he was not looking for a caffeine fix.
Instead, he was there to look for food.
“I was looking for donations,” he said. “Of course, we look through the fridges just to double check, make sure everything’s in order.”
Gonzalez usually does this type of foraging alone, after the business is closed.
He is one of three drivers employed by the San Antonio Food Bank who make pickups for what the organization calls its food rescue program.
“Not only am I working but I'm benefiting something that goes beyond myself,” Gonzalez said. “It's pretty awesome. They have a good amount of donations and I didn't know that they do something like this.”
During a regular overnight shift, he visits about 30 different Starbucks locations in the San Antonio area.
Staff there have been instructed to wrap up leftovers for that purpose and leave them in a designated area.
The coffee company sponsors the program, both in the form of food donations and monetary grants.
The food bank then uses the food to feed people at its community kitchen, located on the grounds of Haven for Hope.
“Every donation counts and there are plenty of people that need that little extra help,” Gonzalez said.
According to Phillip Kent, the food bank’s communications and marketing director, the agency has collected and redistributed about 120,000 pounds of food between January and September.
Gonzalez, who had a history as a delivery driver of restaurant and fast food, began working for the food bank four months ago.
He said driving on the roads in the middle of the night has been an eye-opener.
“Out past Six Flags and Camp Bullis area, over there off of I-10, you see a lot of wildlife, coyotes, foxes,” he said.
Keeping his eyes open all night, meanwhile, takes work.
Gonzalez said even though he is in and out of Starbucks shops all night long, he never drinks coffee.
Drinking lots of water and listening to talk radio, he said, are what keep him awake.