The Port Arthur News
H-E-B donated $264,000 worth of cereal to 16 food banks across the nation Monday, but the more than two million bowls of cereal is a mere flake in the bowl for a year-round need.
Emelie Irving, executive director for the Southeast Texas Food Bank, was clearly excited while the donated goods where being unloaded off the H-E-B truck. But she was quick to point out the need for food does not begin and end during the holiday season.
“It’s not that there are more hungry people during the holidays,” she said. “There are hungry people and people in need of food assistance every week of the year. But during the holiday season, what makes us busy, is that’s when people start thinking about the poor, the hungry, the needy.”
Irving said the food bank sees an increase in community involvement and fundraising during the holiday season, specifically from October to December.
“This is a difficult thing for people to understand: we distribute food every week of the year,” she said. “What we’re distributing now is what we’re distributing during the summer time too.”
According to Feeding America, more than 6.1 million households, or 5.1 percent, received goods from a food pantry at least once in 2011.
Unemployment is a strong predictor of food insecurity, according to Feeding America, so a weak national economy has increased the need for donated goods.
Since 2006, 74 percent of pantries, 65 percent of kitchens, and 54 percent of shelters associated with Feeding America reported an increase since 2006 in the number of people using their services.
The Southeast Texas Food Bank, which gives out about five million pounds of food a year, receives goods in a number of ways: donations from national and local sources, commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and purchases made with donated funds.
A large part of its resources, about 25 percent, comes from food that would have otherwise been thrown away.
The organization sends trucks to 22 grocery stores twice a week to collect food that is about to reach its expiration date or be tossed out because fresher items have arrived. The food bank is on pace to collect about 1.2 million pounds of donated goods using this method, according to Irving.
“It’s a big, big program,” she said.
Doreen Borel, community coordinator for H-E-B, said the national grocer has always had a strong commitment to helping those in need.
“It gives you a sense of pride in the company you work for that is giving back to the community,” she said. “It makes you feel good.”
Founded in 1982, the H-E-B Food Bank Assistance Program donated more than 26 million pounds of food to Texas and Mexico food banks in 2011.
Borel said the company chose to donate corn flakes this year because it is a cereal every body likes and is a relatively healthy food.
“I haven’t met anybody that won’t eat corn flakes,” she said.