Construction is nearing completion on the San Antonio Food Bank’s first branch location, a $6.1 million facility in New Braunfels that should allow the agency to help more people with expanded programs and improved logistical capabilities in the rapidly growing area.
To be called the New Braunfels Food Bank, the new facility also will enhance services the San Antonio nonprofit has offered there since 2010 at The Kitchen Table, a food pantry whose staff will relocate to the new digs from its current site in The Marketplace Shopping Center.
“Over the last number of years, community leaders in Comal County and New Braunfels have identified gaps in services for individuals in need of human and social services,” said Susan Filyk, San Antonio Food Bank spokeswoman. “One of the top priorities identified was access to food, particularly healthy food.”
The new branch, set to open in August, is being built entirely with donated funds, she said, including $1 million each from the McKenna Foundation of New Braunfels and the Harvey E. Najim Family Foundation and Kronkosky Foundation, both of San Antonio. About $500,000 has yet to be raised.
“We believe the San Antonio Food Bank is one of the best food banks in the country and we’re really excited about the new construction in New Braunfels,” said Dennis Noll, a trustee of the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation, which donated $500,000. “While we traditionally don’t think of hunger being part of our rural communities, poverty and hunger do exist in significant ways in rural Texas.”
Beyond a commercial kitchen, food preparation area and large coolers, the new 34,000 square-foot structure at 1620 So. Seguin Ave. will include work rooms, classrooms an outdoor events area and more, all designed by CGM Architects.
“We’re looking forward to getting them up and running,” said Greg Vaughn of the F.A. Nunley Co., general contractor. “They do so much work in the area, and have proven to be an extremely efficient charitable organization.”
Each week the San Antonio Food Bank serves 58,000 individuals, with its fleet of 37 trucks delivering goods to 530 agencies it supports in 16 counties, then picking up donations of food — often left over, approaching its expiration date or mislabeled — from retailers who provide critical support.
While eliminating hunger is its first priority, Filyk said the agency also helps clients access local resources to stabilize their lives, including nutrition, health and wellness classes, demonstrations on healthy cooking and courses on exercise, diabetes prevention and management and gardening,.
Comal County Commissioner Donna Eccleston, who has volunteered to teach cooking classes at the Kitchen Table, called the new food bank “a really big deal.”
“I really don’t like the idea of anybody in our country going hungry,” she said Friday. “We have quite a few food pantries in Comal County… and we are incredibly fortunate that we partner with the San Antonio Food Bank to make the most of the resources.”
“With the New Braunfels Food Bank, it’s going to be far more effective in distributing food to Guadalupe and Comal counties and all the surrounding communities,” she said.
The Spirit of Sharing Food Bank in New Braunfels is one of the local pantries that relies on the San Antonio Food Bank to assist its monthly clientele of about 50 lower-income residents.
“It’s going to be very helpful (having the branch there) because we get a lot of our dry goods and other foods from the San Antonio Food Bank,” said Michael Ziegler, an SOS staffer. “There should be a lot more synergy, and it should be a lot easier to order food and to get it.”
Joemichael Hernandez, who was picking up food there Friday, has relied on its help for the past year due to problems making ends meet for his family of four doing construction work.
“I’m kind of struggling right now, so I’m just trying to help my family,” said Hernandez, 26. “They give us enough to get through the week. They help people out like us who are struggling. God is here for us.”
Chris Snider, owner of Texas Titos Inc., a food manufacturer specializing in pickles and peppers, said he began donating goods to the San Antonio Food Bank after hearing its chief executive, Eric Cooper, address members of the Texas Food Processors Association.
“I was really impressed with their logistical capabilities. They’re able to distribute a large quantity of food across a large region,” said Snider, who also volunteers at The Kitchen Table.
“A lot of the recipients are elderly, people who have been laid off, and people with low paying jobs,” said Snider, who joined the New Braunfels Food Bank Advisory Committee just as work on the new building was commencing a year ago.
“The food bank is getting closer to the client base it serves here,” he said. “They’re a major distributor, so at some point they’re going to achieve improved logistical efficiency by having more than one location. This will be both a collection and distribution point.”