Leading SA: San Antonio Food Bank’s chief sustainability officer discusses holiday season needs, programs

Thanksgiving is over, but the giving season is just beginning

SAN ANTONIO – There are so many families in and around San Antonio who need just a little bit of support this holiday season coming up.

Michael Guerra, chief sustainability officer of the San Antonio Food Bank, joined Leading SA this weekend to talk about the current needs and various programs you can participate in during this holiday season.

It’s been an interesting roller coaster, and the roller coaster is going up right now, meaning the need we’re seeing the need is trending higher. We’re seeing more calls and requests for emergency food, and we’re seeing more people showing up at our food distributions,” Guerra said.

Watch the entire Leading SA interview with Guerra in the video player above, or watch a debrief on GMSA@9 below:

Guerra added that each family receiving support from the food bank has a unique financial hardship, but so many of them are tied to the higher cost of living.

“Inflation was higher, then inflation outpaced wages. So, people are actually worse off financially. They don’t have the buying power that real income that they did, you know, a year ago. And so, I think it’s just a matter of economics that people are working,” Guerra said.

“But the world has gotten more expensive around them, and there’s just not enough money left for the grocer, and that’s compounded. You know, our housing costs have been high. Health care is a challenge. And it’s not that someone uses the bank every week. I think that’s maybe the last point to make.

“We see periodic need, if you’re working, and that periodic need is, you know, when there’s -- if a car breaks down, there’s a health care kind of medical bill that comes due. And so, it’s that periodic need when we’re also seeing individuals. But I would say that need is up, and we’re trending upwards to, you know, near 110,000,” Guerra added.

During Thanksgiving, the San Antonio Food Bank stepped up and helped in various ways.

We had a turkey trot for 7,000 individuals, and that’s a giveback event. Besides people feeling, you know, wellness and health and all those good things that happen in a run or a walk, the dollars helped provide food at Thanksgiving, the turkey and then some. So that was beautiful to see,” Guerra told KSAT.

“We also, with USAA, helped put together meals for shelters in San Antonio. Our great friends at USAA gave us money so that we prepared food at Haven for Hope, and that food -- those meals were then sent to shelters across San Antonio so that the staff at those shelters could have Thanksgiving with their families. It is a beautiful thing that that incredible company does. But our team put together an awesome Thanksgiving meal, and then we went over and just made sure that the residents at Haven... were taken care of,” Guerra added.

The month of November was not just limited to Thanksgiving.

We wanted to try and have a hunger-free November for seniors. It was our first time to take a month and see if we could just really have no food insecurity for our seniors, for those elderly in our city. And folks can still call if they need support. Our team is great at finding local food pantries and other ways that individuals can get help in our community if you’re a senior,” Guerra said.

“So we really want to make sure that in November, we’ve taken care of all our seniors. But yeah, just around the corner, you all know it will be December, and the need doesn’t stop. You know, we all restock our pantry personally, maybe once a week, every two weeks, or we’re having to do the same for, you know, those hundreds of thousands in the area. So, we’ll ramp up with a couple of campaigns.

“But I would say, especially if folks can volunteer, I think a little bit of vacation time is coming for some families and kids in schools, and pre-booking that volunteer time would be just perfect because we’ll see the need continue to increase. So, if folks have the long holiday time to volunteer, that’d be great. And then our lowest month of volunteerism was actually this January. So if you want to come, we actually have a dip in service bookings for January,” Guerra added.

As for the unique ways our community can get involved, there is a myriad of options.

We have a program called Hunters for the Hungry that will allow our hunters, our ranchers, to donate fuel and dress deer into our program. We have a meat processing plant at the center and a food bank that can handle that deer. It’s available 24/7 for a hunter or a rancher to bring those deer and drop them off in our cooler. We process those deer into ground venison that’s made available to folks who are facing hunger throughout our community.

“It’s an incredible program. It’s great for the conservation of land. It’s good for the herd of the animals. It’s no cost to the rancher. And it’s providing, of course, an incredible renewable protein to folks facing hunger,” Guerra said.

This is just one of the unique programs at the San Antonio Food Bank. You can find more by clicking here.

Find more Leading SA content on KSAT.com here

About the Author

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.

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