Never reluctant to speak about social issues, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made a pitch Wednesday afternoon for the San Antonio Food Bank.

Addressing the media with Eric Cooper, Food Bank president and CEO, Popovich spoke about the urgent need for donations this summer to help feed local students.

“We have a problem,” Popovich said. “It’s got nothing to do with the pick-and-roll, rebounding or anything like that. It’s about our kids, and that’s why we’re all here today. Many people probably don’t know the stats, so I’ll just go through just a few of them and point everybody to what the problem is.

“Here in our San Antonio area, in summertime, one out of every four kids is going to have a problem, a challenge, food-wise, as far as meals are concerned, which results in hunger, obviously. One in four.”

The Food Bank provided meals for 15,000 kids in the first week after school ended last year and doubled the number this year.

“The need doubled, which means the money’s got to be doubled somehow or other to continue to meet this need,” Popovich said. “During the school year, about 200,000 kids either get free meals or reduced-priced meals at school. School’s out and it’s summertime now, so that exacerbates the problem.

“Luckily, the Food Bank does things like increase the sites at which you can receive meals by 50 percent. That’s basically the problem. That’s what we’re facing and, in a place like San Antonio, where everybody is so willing to give in such a community-oriented place, we all feel a big part of it. That’s why we live here year-round.”

Popovich spoke only about the Food Bank at Wednesday’s event, which was held at the KIPP Academy on the south side of the city.

Coach Gregg Popovich has led the Spurs to five NBA championships and 20 consecutive playoff appearances since succeeding Bob Hill 18 games into the 1996-97 campaign.
Coach Gregg Popovich has led the Spurs to five NBA championships and 20 consecutive playoff appearances since succeeding Bob Hill 18 games into the 1996-97 campaign.

Always brutally honest, Popovich expressed his frustration that so many kids in San Antonio go hungry.

“To know that the kids are in this kind of situation is really not just sad, but it’s disgusting,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure we take care of it, each and every one of us. So that’s why we’re here today. That’s the problem.”

Asked why he is so passionate about the Food Bank, Popovich said, “I think that any of us realizes that the measure of who we are and the satisfaction we get out of life is directly proportionate to what we give back. No matter how little or how much you have, monetarily or superficially or materially, if it’s all about you, you’re in big trouble. You’re not going to be a very happy camper.”

Popovich said that there are other ways to help the food bank besides donating food.

“You can donate your time,” he said. “Be involved in packing these meals, in helping distribute the meals. You can donate goods. We just want to get it done for the kids, so hopefully we can spread the word and get everybody involved.”

Cooper said that the food bank can’t do its job without support from the San Antonio community

“There are a lot of different ways to get involved,” Cooper noted. “We’re going to challenge San Antonio to do just that.”

Popovich praised grocer H-E-B for being a leading supporter of the food banks through its H-E-B Food Bank Assistance Program.

“One of the easiest ways to take care of the money situation involves one of our great partners in the city for a long time. That’s H-E-B,” Popovich said. “The work they do is indescribable. I think many people in the city know of that. Next time you’re at the H-E-B and you check out, you’re going to have an opportunity to contribute $1, $3 or $5 [to the Food Bank].

“Maybe it’ll pop into your head that that big basket you have there means that you’re pretty fortunate. That maybe you can go give a buck or a five-spot to help some other kids. The more that we get the word out, the better.”

Founded in 1980, the San Antonio Food Bank’s mission is “to fight hunger in Southwest Texas through food distribution programs, education, and advocacy,” according to the official Facebook page.

The nonprofit agency has just two percent overhead, with the remaining 98 percent of donated resources going to “help set the table for 58,000 individuals a week.”

Popovich, 68, has guided the Spurs to all five of their NBA championships since he became the franchise’s head coach 19 games into the 1996-97 season. The Silver and Black have made the playoffs in each of the past 20 seasons.

This season’s team went 61-21 and reached the Western Conference Finals in its first campaign without iconic forward Tim Duncan, who retired last July.