Southside ISD, San Antonio Food Bank provide food to most vulnerable living in food desert

Southside residents explain what food distributions mean to them during the pandemic

San Antonio – The coronavirus pandemic is impacting food deserts in San Antonio, but the Southside Independent School District and the San Antonio Food Bank are playing critical roles and ensuring no one goes hungry.

“There’s probably more distributions on the South Side than any other part (of the city) just to try to meet the demand of the population,” said Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank.

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Southside ISD hosts food distributions twice a month and feeds more than 5,000 people a month.

“The largest amount of people that we during the explosion or the onset of COVID-19 really involved probably close to 4,500 people that showed up here to receive food at one time,” said Randy Escamilla, director of public relations for Southside ISD.

Southside ISD receives the food it gives to its community members from the San Antonio Food Bank.

“We’re seeing people who have lost their jobs. We’re seeing people whose hours have been cut, and we’re seeing a real need from people who come to get food. I can tell you that people aren’t coming here to get food because it’s free food. People are coming because they actually need food,” Escamilla said.

The service is open to everyone, not just those with children in the district.

“The need is always great because we’re in a rural community. A lot of our recipients of the food are elderly. They don’t have means or the resources to drive into San Antonio or Pleasanton to obtain food,” said Ruth Arocha, a food distribution volunteer.

Gloria Mendoza and her four grandchildren benefit from the food distributions.

“The food helped me a lot,” Mendoza said.

Mary Castillo is the sole provider for her six grandchildren. Southside ISD’s food distribution ensures there’s food on their table too.

“They give rice and bags of beans, and a bag of rice, canned foods, a lot of tuna, corn, a lot of vegetables too,” Castillo said.

The San Antonio Food Bank says one in four children experience hunger in San Antonio.

“It’s very difficult for a child to focus and learn when they’re hungry,” said Cooper said.

The majority of the food the nonprofit distributes comes from donors such as H-E-B, but the food bank also has farms where it grows produce.

“All the produce that we grow, both here at the San Antonio Food Bank and what we grow at Mission San Juan, is integrated into our distributions out to our partner pantries and our programs,” Cooper said.

The Mission San Juan Farm is a partnership with the National Parks Service in which dozens of acres of land are used to help feed people.

The food banks said, on average, 75,000 pounds of its produce comes from the farms each year.

About the Authors

Tiffany Huertas is a reporter for KSAT 12 known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.

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