Houston Food Bank

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Houston Food Bank
Type Non-profit
Founded 1982 in Houston, Texas
Founders Joan and Stanford Alexander
Headquarters 535 Portwall St
Houston, Texas 77029
Key people Brian Greene, President/CEO
Website [1]

Houston Food Bank is a private non-profit organization founded in 1982 Houston, Texas and is a certified member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network.[1] The Houston Food Bank is America’s largest food bank in distribution to its network of nearly 600 hunger relief charities in 18 southeast Texas counties. Named top charity in Texas by Charity Navigator for financial performance and accountability,[2] the Food Bank provides 59 million nutritious meals to food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers and other agencies, feeding 137,000 people each week. The organization plans to grow to provide 100 million nutritious meals annually by 2018.[3]

Locations[edit]

Portwall The main location of the Houston Food Bank is a 308,000 square-foot warehouse located just off 1-10 East at 535 Portwall St. The warehouse was acquired as the culmination of a capital campaign that generated $56 million in gifts from the generous community in 2011.[4] From this building, volunteers and staff distribute fresh produce, meat and nonperishable items throughout the community. At any given time, the warehouse holds about 12 million pounds of perishable and non-perishable items.[5] The Portwall facility houses most of the Food Bank staff offices, as well as additional community services ranging from nutrition education to assistance with food stamp applications and hands-on job training. Portwall can accommodate up to 1,000 volunteers during each of its volunteer shifts Monday through Saturday.

Keegan Kitchen The Keegan Kitchen is a 15,000 square-foot industrial kitchen located just north of downtown Houston on I-45 North. This program is operated out of the Mary Barden Keegan Center, which formerly housed the End Hunger Network, a partner hunger relief organization that merged with the Houston Food Bank in 2008.[6] Here, with the help of volunteers and culinary trainees in the Serving for Success Program, Houston Food Bank staff prepare hot and frozen meals for the Kids Café. All food preparation and production is overseen by Chef Hose Montoya. Keegan Kitchen is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and can accommodate up to 20 people during each of its two daily volunteer shifts (8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.).[7]

Operations[edit]

The Houston Food Bank is currently the largest Feeding America food bank in the U.S., in both the amount of food distributed to its partner agencies and in the size of its facility.[8] Thanks to strong community support, the Food Bank uses only 5% of all resources for operation costs, which allows 95 cents of every dollar to feed hungry children, adults and seniors. The organization focuses on balanced diets, nutrition education, and social services provided through its programs, such as Backpack Buddy, Kids Cafe, Serving for Success, and Social Services Outreach.[9]

In fiscal year 2012-2013, Houston Food Bank distributed the equivalent of 64 million nutritious meals to its partner agencies. The emphasis is on nutrition: 35% of total distribution during this time was produce.[10]

Programs[edit]

Backpack Buddy Many of the children who rely on free and reduced price lunches during the school week are at risk of going home to meager or no meals on the weekends. The Backpack Buddy program works to fill that gap. Every Friday, teachers and dministrators at participating schools discretely distribute bags containing child-friendly, nonperishable, vitamin-fortified and easily consumed food to children who have been identified as at-risk of hunger.[11]

Emergency Food Pantry Operated by the Emergency Aid Coalition (EAC), the Emergency Food Pantry is a client-choice pantry serving working families who can't access their neighborhood pantry during its normal operating hours. The Emergency Food Pantry is located inside the Houston Food Bank, and is open from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. The pantry requires proof of employment in the form of a paycheck or paystub from an employer to select items from the pantry. If a client is homeless disabled, elderly or not currently working, they are given a food package and referred to their local pantry. There is also a "Your Texas Benefits Station" available in the Emergency Food Pantry, at which clients can sign up for state-funded benefits such as SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), TANF and Medicaid. They can also check the status of their application or case, see which benefits they are eligible for and view the benefit amounts.[12]

Kids Café The Houston Food Bank Kids Café is one of more than 1,200 Kids Cafes operating in the United States through Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger relief charity. A collaboration of chefs, dietitians, students and volunteers, the Kids Café provides meals and snacks to children through after-school programs, as well as food safety lessons, nutrition edication and hands-on instruction to help them create and sustain healthy lifecycles.[13] In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, this program served 371,182 meals to hungry children as part of its partnerships with 34 after-school programs.[14]

Nutrition Education The Houston Food Bank offers nutrition education classes to socio-economically disadvantaged elderly, children, teens, mothers and babies, pregnant mothers, healthy adults, and people with AIDS through its partner agencies. Classes are offered free of charge to members of the above groups, and each class features a cooking demonstration highlighting the class topic (healthy choices, cooking on a budget, etc.) [15]

Red Barrel The Red Barrel program began in 1986 as part of the End Hunger Network. A founding board member, Barbara Falik, had seen a similar program that collected pet food for animal shelters while visiting another city and brought the concept back to Houston, What began as a three-month trial program in 20 stores is now a program with over 250 participating grocery stores throughout the Houston area, and collected almost two million pounds of food from 2012-2013.[16]

Red barrels bearing the Houston Food Bank's signature "green apple" logo are located near the exit of participating stores. Shoppers can purchase nonperishable food items while doing their regular grocery shopping, and then place the food in the red barrels on their way out of the store. HFB partner agencies make regular pick-up stops at each red barrel during the week.

Senior Boxes This program is funded through the federal Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). Each month, participating seniors receive a box of food to help them stretch their fixed incomes in order to keep food on the table. To be eligible for the program, participants must be Harris County residents who are at least 60 years old, and be living on no more than 130% of the Federal Poverty Level. The boxes are packaged at the Houston Food Bank and then distributed for pick up to various partner agencies.[17]

Social Services Outreach Program (SSOP) In addition to providing food to those in need, the Houston Food Bank also offers application assistance for a variety of state-funded social and health services programs.

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits
  • Children's Medicaid
  • Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Women's Health Program (Family planning, Health screenings through Medicaid)
  • CHIP Perinatal Program

SSOP staff submit cases electronically to state departments, and are also able to issue Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to clients to expedite receipt of benefits after program eligibility has been determined and approved on the State level. Application assistance is offered both on-site at the Portwall location and at various partner agencies throughout the Houston area.[18]

Teachers Aid An affiliate of the Kids in Need Foundation's Kid in Need National Network sponsored by Target,[19] this program provides school and classroom supplies for teachers at schools in which at least 70% of the students are on free or reduced=price lunch. Teachers may "shop" at the Teachers Aid Center once a month, and select from donated items based on the grade level they teach, their curriculum needs and what items are currently available.[20]

Serving for Success In partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), Harris County Community Supervisions and Corrections (HCCSC), Houston Community College System (HCCS), this program trains offenders for living-wage jobs while they volunteer at the Food Bank.[21]

Volunteers[edit]

While the Food Bank has nearly 200 employees, volunteers are essential to the Food Bank’s mission. In fiscal year 2012-2013, volunteers donated 234,000 hours while sorting and processing food, in addition to other tasks that support the staff. The number of donated hours is equivalent to 112 full-time employees.

References[edit]

External links[edit]