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New San Antonio Food Bank rules drive up price for neighborhood giveaways

Nonprofits no longer allowed to shop at food bank during COVID-19 crisis

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Food Bank on Thursday hosted what’s called a Mega Giveaway, a twice-a week offering of free produce and groceries to those who preregistered online.

An estimated 5,000 families were waiting in line at Trader’s Village, hoping to fill their car trunks with food to tide them over through the stay-at-home orders this week.

But the new normal is an expensive turn of luck for small food bank partner nonprofits that are no longer invited to shop for inexpensively curated food at the food bank.

San Antonio Food Bank sees largest crowd yet for drive-thru distribution

Juan Ramos, a volunteer at the R3 Center, which provides mentors for students, has changed gears to accommodate the new needs of his families.

“The cost is definitely way, way, different for a lot of organizations,” he said.

R3 is working with other nonprofits, like Mi Hila’s Heart Gives Back, by cooking and distributing meals twice a week. Whereas the organizations used to pay pennies on the dollar for the food ingredients at the Food Bank, now under new rules, they are forced to shop retail.

Gloria Rodriguez at Mi Hila’s gave away 414 meals on Tuesday out of the R3 Castroville Road location. The grocery bill added up to about $500 at stores like Costco instead of the $100 or less they used to pay.

The loss of the food bank’s deeply-discounted food could be made up at the Mega Food Giveaways, except for one problem you’ll find in needy neighborhoods, according to Ramos.

“A lot of the people in our area, here, don’t even have computers. If they even know how to use the computer, they don’t have access to the internet (and) they don’t have access to computers,” he said.

San Antonio Food Bank’s mega distribution site helps deliver food to those in need

And there’s one more stumbling block that the small nonprofits seem to be willing to jump. They deliver food to those who have no transportation and don’t want to expose themselves to crowds on buses.

“These people don’t have any way of getting out their houses to go shopping, so us being able to do this, we are able to bring the sustenance and food to the families directly, and have some happy tummies by the end of the day," Rodriguez said of her clients.

The San Antonio Food Bank said it had to change the rules to keep up with growing demand since it’s shelves were being picked clean by many nonprofits wanting to help their clients. The food bank decided to centralize the food-giveaway efforts of the region to better control the supply and demand during the COVID-19 crisis.

If you would like to register for the next Mega Food Giveaway, click here.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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