SAN ANTONIO – Diesel helps fuel America’s economy, but its current price tag has negatively impacted all parts of the supply chain. Prices across the U.S. are at record highs due to domestic inventories and a global supply shortage.
San Antonio is also feeling the brunt of fuel prices. Eric Cooper, president and CEO of The San Antonio Food Bank, said it’s getting harder to feed families.
“Coming out of the pandemic, (we are) settling in at about 50% more demand than we had seen prior to the pandemic,” Cooper said. “(We) went from feeding 60,000 people to 120,000 to now 90,000 people a week, and we’re starting to see an uptick in demand.”
The San Antonio Food Bank serves 29 counties in Southwest Texas. More families to feed means more trips and more expenses for fuel.
“All of that transportation and the cost of fuel being high means that we’re all going to feel it when we go to purchase (food),” Cooper said. “For us at the food bank, it’s trying to mitigate the loss from families and then try to keep our trucks on the road and save every penny we can.”
This week, Sabas Calbillo celebrated four years as a truck driver with the San Antonio Food Bank.
Calbillo delivers food to senior centers and schools.
“I deliver to those the senior centers here in San Antonio, and then I go as far as Uvalde and Sabinal, Lakey,” Calbillo said. “For schools, we go as south as Corpus (Christi), Victoria, Beeville, Aransas Pass. So, we’re driving pretty far.”
Calbillo’s truck is part of the diesel-guzzling fleet of about 50 vehicles for the San Antonio Food Bank.
“To fill up the actual truck is 90 gallons (of diesel),” Calbillo said. “To fill up the reefer is about 45 gallons.”
The reefer is what keeps the produce cold or frozen. Lately, Calbillo said he has been astounded looking at the neon numbers at gas stations increasing every day.
“I was filling up (with) $150, both filling up my main tank and with the reefer,” Calbillo said. “Now it’s like, shoot, almost $250, $300.”
He has to fill up at least twice a week to complete all his routes.
“My last total was $310,” Calbillo said. “My truck is a 26-foot box truck, so the gas tank is smaller. The 18-wheelers that we have are actually 56-footers. So, their reefer tank and their fuel tank itself are bigger than ours.”
San Antonio Food Bank Chief Philanthropy Officer Michael Guerra said the spike in diesel prices has already put the nonprofit $20,000 over budget this year.
“Roughly $1,000 per day is the increase in what we’re paying today than what we were a year ago in increased costs around diesel,” Cooper said.
Last week, AAA reported diesel prices in San Antonio were, on average, just below five dollars. This week, prices spiked more than 20 cents, bringing the average to an all-time high at $5.29.
However, work hasn’t slowed down.
“If anything, it’s crazy. Sometimes we actually get more added to the routes because people are so in need of food,” Calbillo said. “We’re just pushing through it as much as best as we can.”
Although under a lot of pressure to crunch numbers and raise funds, Cooper said the top priority is to feed families, which cannot be done without drivers like Calbillo.
Corporate partners like Valero have been crucial at this time, Cooper said. However, more help is needed from others.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we’re successful. And so, San Antonio, if you can help us, now’s the time,” Cooper said. “Monetarily, if families can give a little more, that’s how we’re going to make up the difference.”
To donate online to the San Antonio Food Bank, click here.
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