SAN ANTONIO — Inflation is eating into everyone’s budget. For many, that means their dollars are buying less food at the grocery store. The San Antonio Food Bank is seeing almost as much need now as it did during the pandemic.
“We, pre-pandemic, fed about 60,000 people a week,” said Eric Cooper, the President and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank. “It went to 120,000 people a week at the peak of the pandemic. Then, as the economy strengthened, it dropped to 90,000 people a week. Just in the last few months, we’ve seen an uptick in demand. Now, it's just over 100,000 people a week, again. This is when we’ve got less than 4% unemployment in our city. It’s a time when the economy has been doing O.K. When you think about just the inflation on food, families leave the grocery store with less food in the grocery cart than they did last year.”
Brenda Sauceda of San Antonio was feeding nine people during the pandemic including her children and grandchildren. She turned to the food bank to supplement her groceries. She said she had a sense of relief when she came home and opened the boxes of food.
“It was ‘Oh thank God. Thank God,'” Sauceda said. “This it’s not a whole lot, but it’s enough to feed everybody.”
You notice her the big smiles in the photo she has of her family, but what you do not see in the picture or in life is how full someone’s stomach is or is not.
“What does hunger look like?” Sauceda said. “A lot of times people want to push it under the carpet and think it’s not a problem, but when you look at it, it is a problem.”
Cooper said inflation is now pushing more people into hunger.
“We’re still seeing at many of our distributions people for the time availing themselves of help,” Cooper said.
The high demand for food is expected to last through the holidays. Cooper said Hunger Action Month is critical in getting enough food not just for today but also for those special holiday meals, including 20,000 turkeys.
“On Thanksgiving, you don’t necessarily have to have a turkey to nourish your body, but it’s a time of nourishing soul and family," Cooper said. "And, boy, if we can deliver on that, it’s a miracle,” Cooper said.
There are three ways you can help stop hunger in our community:
- Donate money. One dollar buys seven meals.
“For every $1 we take in, we could put out $13 worth of food,” Cooper said. “So it is the most strategic thing to donate.”
“We’re asking for any type of nonperishable food item,” Cooper said. “Of course, staple items like rice, beans, but any type of protein, a soup, chili, stew with meat in it. Our number one item tends to be peanut butter.”
“During the pandemic, we averaged about 2,000 volunteers a week, but it dropped to about 1,500,” Cooper said. “Now that the demand is going up, we’re needing more volunteers to help us at our food distributions.”