– Eric Cooper, President & CEO, San Antonio Food Bank
San Antonio shares many of the same challenges as Tampa Bay, but is performing notably better than our region in keeping levels of food insecurity low.
The San Antonio Food Bank is addressing the root causes of hunger with innovative workforce and job training programs.
Texas is ranked second in the nation for food insecurity, with 1 in 6 living in food insecure homes.
The San Antonio Food Bank (SAFB), serving 16 counties in Southwest Texas, knows the most common reason that adults are forced to rely on food pantries to meet their nutritional needs is a lack of job training and the inability to find sustainable employment that pays a living wage.
With this in mind, the organization takes a holistic view of the cause of food insecurity and uses a three-pronged approach to serve the needs of their community.
Working with over 500 partner agencies, SAFB distributed 77 million meals in 2017 while serving 58,000 individuals each week. SAFB operates with only 2 percent overhead – 98 percent of its resources go back into fighting hunger in the community. The non-profit has been recognized as a 4-Star Charity by Charity Navigator for nine consecutive years, a distinction only 2 percent of charities can claim.
SAFB’s Culinary Training Program addresses hunger through training the unemployed and underemployed, who in turn nourish those in need. Through an 18-week course, individuals are taught basic kitchen and culinary skills, safety and sanitation procedures, and gain the hands-on training needed to achieve meaningful employment in the food service industry. As part of their training, students serve SAFB clients by preparing meals for area shelters, Kids Cafes and summer feeding sites. Students may also have an opportunity to intern with a full-service caterer through the San Antonio Food Bank’s award-winning social enterprise, Catalyst Catering, whose profits support the program.
In their efforts to break the cycle of hunger, SAFB has established many creative partnerships. One such partnership is with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice through the Texas Second Chance Program. The six-month, 100-hour program provides professional training in warehousing, inventory and culinary skills, coupled with the opportunity to gain certifications, licenses and a sense of accomplishment. The Culinary Training Program is also offered through the Texas Second Chance program.
SAFB’s Workforce Development Department works with the community and its industries. Services include resume assistance, interview skills, and education and character-building programs. One-on-one case management helps clients find the best fit employment based on their strengths, skills and needs. Clients are also offered opportunity for free job readiness classes, mock interviews, potential job opportunities and connections with employers.