Spurs, SAFB box out summer food shortage

    San Antonio Food Bank President and CEO Eric Cooper and Spurs head coach Greg Popovich join forces to provide summer meals for students in need. (Photo, Christina Acosta)

    Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and San Antonio Food Bank (SAFB) President and CEO Eric Cooper teamed up to help feed local students during the summer months.

    Popovich and Cooper addressed the scope of the food bank’s summer meals effort on Wednesday afternoon, to secure the goal of food and funds equal to 9 million extra meals this summer. The community can help through H-E-B’s “Help End Hunger,” where a customer can add $1, $3 or $5 to their grocery bill.

    Those interested in the cause can also volunteer at SAFB, located at 5200 Enrique M. Barrera Pkwy., where they can distribute, help package or donate non-perishable food. Summer is the highest time of need for the SAFB and for the more than 200,000 local kids who receive free or reduced meals at school, but lack resources during weekends and school holidays.

    “The more that we get the word out, the better. You could even tell people you don’t like to donate their money and food, then walk away,” joked Popovich at the press conference. “I think that any of us that realize the measure of who we are and the satisfaction we get out of life is directly proportional to what we give back, no matter how little or how much monetarily.”

    With 1 in 4 San Antonio-area students at risk for hunger this summer, the food bank has recruited double the sites to feed school-aged kids, and in the first week, served twice as many meals as at this time in 2016. During the first week in in the summer of 2016, about 15,000 meals were distributed to grade school students.

    This year, the amount doubled during the first week of summer, with the SAFB distributing 30,000 meals for children in need. In 2017, the SAFB made contributions in providing food and grocery products to more than 530 partner agencies and those items have spread out in the community to 16 counties and in Southwest Texas. The company has also handed out 62 million pounds of food every year.

    Support of initiatives like “Help End Hunger” must double this year to allow the food bank to meet the urgent needs of our community. Last year, H-E-B awarded the SAFB with a $110,000 donation that was able to provide 770,000 nutritious meals to local families, children and even seniors.

    “At the food bank, we are known for our efficiencies. We run on a 2 percent administrative overhead,” said Cooper. “Our board sets a pretty lean strategy to live up to, and we are so humbled; and we are able to do that with the support of the community.”

    The relationship between the SAFB and the Spurs started back in 2001, when Popovich left a voicemail in Cooper’s answering machine stating that he is ready to put an end to hunger. Since then, Popovich and the Spurs have taken part in many events to help fight hunger including bringing the entire team to volunteer at the organization and even host the sixth annual Champions Against Hunger Dinner. Through its six year run, the dinner has raised over $1 million in support and generated over 7 million meals for those in need.

    “Pop has always been a guy that has been there for the food bank, and it doesn’t matter what the request is,” continued Cooper. “We have the greatest NBA team in the world, our San Antonio Spurs, and you really see it because of what they do off the court, just as what they do on the court. I think [Popovich] wants to make sure that those who are most vulnerable get their needs taken care of.”

    Those interested in donating this summer can give non-perishable food items, including peanut butter, rice, beans, tuna and any type of protein, to the SAFB. For more information, visit www.safoodbank.org.