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Increasing price of food leading more people to San Antonio Food Bank, CEO says

To make up for the shortfall, families are skipping the grocery store and heading to the organization's mega mobile distributions.

SAN ANTONIO — Selina De Leon's SUV is full of little children, and they all have big appetites. To make sure they have plenty to eat at home during the holidays, the De Leon family attended their first food distribution on Wednesday.

"I'm surprised to see how many people come," said Selina De Leon.

Her family is one of a thousand families driving behind the wheel and waiting in line at the AT&T Center. They will receive about a week's supply of food from the San Antonio Food Bank.

"I'm so grateful to be here today because it would be such a great honor to feed my little ones for the holidays," she said.

The drive thru is focused on areas of Bexar County with higher childhood food insecurity: south, east and west. 

"A lot of kids are going hungry today that we didn't see years ago because of the pandemic," said Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank.

Currently, the food bank is feeding a 90,000 people a week. Cooper said a third or 30,000 of those clients are local children. That's down from a total of 120,000 people they were feeding just three months ago. Cooper said the line is shrinking at distribution sites but the need remains higher than before the pandemic. Partly due to supply disruptions increasing the price of food.

"To make up for that shortfall [at the grocery store] they're leaning on us at the food bank," said Cooper.

He said it's even costing his organization extra these days and in more areas than one.  

"Probably the most critical is fuel. We have a lot of trucks on the road and that expense trickles down into the ultimate price of what we are paying for food and we hope that prices start to decrease and families are able to get the nourishment they need," he said.

Cooper said rising prices won't stop their efforts. For now, they are leaning on the generosity of volunteers and donors to keep up the demand.

"Too many people are food insecure. This will hopefully help them have a better holiday," said Harvey Najim, a local philanthropist.

Najim is underwriting Wednesday's mega mobile distribution. He is sponsoring two more distributions on December 3 and 14 in hopes no one goes hungry this holiday season. They will be at NISD Gustafson Stadium and South San ISD Stadium.

"This is the impact of COVID and it just hasn't gone away yet," he said.

Holiday or not, De Leon said the food bank's efforts mean the world to her family.

"Just to see their faces light up during dinner puts a smile to my face and it just makes me feel proud as a parent to provide this for them, especially when the help comes from the food bank."

To receive assistance, donate time or money, you can visit the food bank's website.

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