San Antonio drive-thru food bank gives groceries to thousands of families

CHRISTINA CARREGA and MARCUS MOORE
·4 min read

The San Antonio Food Bank, which has given away millions of pounds of food in the last 40 years, is now helping thousands of Texas residents in need through the coronavirus pandemic.

Before sunrise on Friday, hundreds of cars lined up outside of Toyota Field soccer stadium to get much-needed groceries. The food bank, which services 16 counties in the southwest Texas area, also made deliveries to the elderly and disabled.

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At the food bank's giveaway last Thursday, 6,000 people pre-registered but 4,000 more lined up in their cars and waited for hours to receive free 120-pound packages of fresh fruits and vegetables donated from local farms as well as bread, non-perishables and at least one meat.

PHOTO: People wait in line to get food at the San Antonio Food Bank distribution center being held in the parking lot at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, April 17, 2020.  (Larry W Smith /EPA via Shutterstock)
PHOTO: People wait in line to get food at the San Antonio Food Bank distribution center being held in the parking lot at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, April 17, 2020. (Larry W Smith /EPA via Shutterstock)

The items are expected to last a family of four for a full week, Michael Guerra, the chief development officer at the San Antonio Food Bank, told ABC News.

Beatrice Ortiz was one of the first people in line, and the mother of three told ABC News she parked her car outside the dome at 4 p.m. Thursday. The distribution line didn't open until 10 a.m. local time. By then, she will have waited in line for 18 hours to get food.

"There's a lot of people hurting here. Even people in my family," Ortiz said.

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Ortiz said local grocery stores don't have the basic items, like milk and eggs, that she needs to feed her family. During normal times, she would just make dinner for kids, because they would get breakfast and lunch at school. Ortiz says that has changed at her home and food goes fast.

PHOTO: Workers and volunteers help load cars with food at a San Antonio Food Bank drive-through distribution during the coronavirus pandemic in San Antonio, April 7, 2020. (Eric Gay/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: Workers and volunteers help load cars with food at a San Antonio Food Bank drive-through distribution during the coronavirus pandemic in San Antonio, April 7, 2020. (Eric Gay/AP, FILE)

Like any parent, Ortiz is determined to feed her family and talks of how she's helping others as the San Antonio food bank helps her.

"During the corona it has been difficult. I don't let anybody out except me. If we have to go somewhere, it's just me. If we have to go to Walmart or H-E-B it's me," she said.

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For Friday's event, the organizers capped the pre-registration at 2,000 people.

"We are trying to do more frequent and moderate-sized efforts. After last week, we decided to go smaller -- more of an effort to better serve the people and not have to wait in long lines," said Guerra of the food bank.

PHOTO: Workers and volunteers help load cars with food at a San Antonio Food Bank drive-through distribution in San Antonio, April 7, 2020.  (Eric Gay/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: Workers and volunteers help load cars with food at a San Antonio Food Bank drive-through distribution in San Antonio, April 7, 2020. (Eric Gay/AP, FILE)

Guerra is, however, concerned about how the food bank will make it through the next few months.

"It looks like FEMA may be offering some food help, but we may also see donor fatigue," he said.

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San Antonio Food Bank says that every dollar donated equals 10 pounds of food or seven meals for one family.

The food bank usually services 58,000 people a week and has ramped up efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guerra noted that San Antonio has surpassed Detroit last year for the highest poverty rate in a major city.

PHOTO: People waiting in line to get food at the San Antonio Food Bank distribution center being held in the parking lot at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, April 17, 2020, are checked.  (Larry W Smith /EPA via Shutterstock)
PHOTO: People waiting in line to get food at the San Antonio Food Bank distribution center being held in the parking lot at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, April 17, 2020, are checked. (Larry W Smith /EPA via Shutterstock)

Under normal operations, it costs $3 million a week to service the community, Guerra said.

"Now we are up to $6 million we have to raise a week," he said.

What to know about coronavirus:

Unemployment rates have skyrocketed across the country as businesses were forced to close in order to abide by health guidelines to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. More than 20 million people have filed unemployment claims in recent weeks.

But Guerra is hopeful "our community is great and everyone is pulling for us to get through all this."

San Antonio drive-thru food bank gives groceries to thousands of families originally appeared on abcnews.go.com