- Megan Rodriguez
- SA Youth at Poplar distributes San Antonio Food Bank meals to 50 to 60 children every day.
The Food Bank provides the meals at 178 locations across Bexar and surrounding counties, including schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, churches, libraries and more. To participate, 50 percent of students at each site must qualify for free or reduced lunches during the school year.
The Food Bank makes the meals fresh daily and keeps a four-week menu cycle so students can receive a wide variety of foods, according to Director of Children’s Programs Heather Guzman. It also sends a nutrition team to the sites to show kids how to cook and grow food.
“We aren’t just focused on handing a meal to a child and sending them on their way,” Guzman said. “We also focus on educating on the importance of nutrition, where your food comes from and how you can be self sufficient.”
The Food Bank introduced the program after its CEO, Eric Cooper, was approached by a principal from a low income school where students intentionally failed classes so they could get free food at summer school.
“I knew then that we needed to do more to make sure kids got food,” Cooper said. “I am always heartbroken because during my childhood, summer was about going out and playing, but there are kids that are not enjoying their summer because they’re worried about where their next meal is coming from.”
SA Youth at Poplar community center had previously served meals to needy kids, but Site Director Allyce Ramon said its partnership with the Food Bank now allows it to offer additional educational resources, such as food demonstrations, that staff couldn't offer before.
“The meals are fantastic, because they introduce kids to things they wouldn’t normally eat,” Ramon said. “It gives them an opportunity to try those things and find out that they like it. It is something they want to tell their parents about and maybe encourage them to cook it at home.”
Azalea Sanchez, 10, said her favorite meals at SA Youth include lasagna and French toast.
“This definitely beats the food at our school,” Sanchez said. “The food at our school has a lot of high-fructose corn syrup, is from a can and is heated up. Here, you know it isn’t going to have high-fructose corn syrup.”
The program is always open to food and monetary donations, but Guzman said volunteers are needed most, since multiple sites want to get involved but don’t have enough staff.
“We’re here to help and we’re here to support the family in any way they need,” Guzman said. “If we can encourage kids and create an impact at a young age, I think that’s a good start, and we want to continue that.”