The holiday season is the New Braunfels Food Bank’s busiest time of the year.
“We actually start planning in September — that’s when we start creating the awareness that leads into the holiday season,” said Louis Guzman, Food Bank area development manager. “In the San Antonio area, we were looking to raise 1 million pounds of food, and in New Braunfels about 250,000 pounds or more, which helps us provide meals for the families in need.”
Guzman said the Food Bank, located at 1620 S. Seguin Avenue, averages around 2,500 families a month, most seeking food and other assistance. Those numbers increase during November and December, when drop-offs of donated food items seem to go out as fast as they come in.
“We definitely would love the opportunity to provide a wide variety of nutritional non-perishable items as we can for them,” Guzman said. “Families with children that receive free and reduced school meals will be without them during the holiday break. Anytime kids are out of school we see increases in the numbers coming by to receive our services.”
Eric Cooper, CEO and president of the San Antonio Food Bank, which oversees the New Braunfels Food Bank, said the organization constantly fights to see supply meet demand.
“We are always consuming,” Cooper said of donations from food drives, effort and time from volunteers, donations to fund its mission, and community support to “educate and advocate for the families we serve.”
Guzman said in addition to its daily pickups of items from area grocery stories, thousands of pounds more come in from the community — individuals, businesses, nonprofits and churches — this time of year.
“We have our food rescue truck, driven by Keith Wenzel, that visits all the local stores — the H-E-Bs, Walmart, Target — any business with food resources,” he said. “We deliver to nonprofits, such as the SOS Food Bank, Community Resource and Recreation Center and others that also distribute food items to the community.
Guzman said Rush Enterprises donated 5,000 pounds in food items, plus 40 turkeys that arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.
“That was incredible, because there was a last-minute rush of families that came in and needed assistance, and Rush was able to provide us with that,” he said. “There have been so many who were willing to help us this season — that’s why you’ve seen our truck in so many places. Keith has been running non-stop — he’s been fantastic.”
Notable contributions also arrived from New Braunfels Utilities, S&S CrossFit, RE/MAX, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, New Braunfels Masonic Lodge Chapter 771, Walmart Distribution Center, dozens of private and public schools, and city and county government.
“NBU partnered with the Food Bank to “Stuff the Truck” with non-perishable food items,” said Melissa Krause, NBU’s executive director of communications and external affairs. “Food barrels, to receive donations from community members and NBU employees, were placed at NBU’s Main Plaza office, NBU Service Center and the Kuehler Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“Additionally, cash and non-perishable food items were collected by Food Bank volunteers at the NBU Truck and Trailer, positioned outside Main Plaza office during the Downtown Tree Lighting and Wassailfest,” she added. “In total, we donated 811 pounds! That is equal to 638 meals for the community.”
Guzman said next week the Food Bank will stage an invitation-only holiday event for about 50 families and 200 children, many of them referred by school districts. He thanked Jefferson Bank, Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union, Berkshire Hathaway, Great American Products and others for helping host the event.
“There will be visits by Santa Claus, the families will receive food baskets with hams for their holiday meals, and we’ll have activities for the children as well,” Guzman said.
Cooper said additional support this holiday season came from Christmas at the Caverns and Wells Fargo Bank. There, folks can pick up gift boxes listing needed items from families, fill them up, and deliver them back to the bank branch or the NBFB.
Cooper said the Food Bank is there to “extend a helping hand to those in their moment of struggle.” He thanked volunteers from churches, schools, civic organizations and companies, adding they “are critical to keep our kitchen, garden and warehouse going.”
While donations are always welcome, the post-Christmas/New Year’s period is when they’ll be needed the most, Guzman said.
“Clear out your cupboards after the holidays and bring what you didn’t consume down to the Food Bank,” he said. “If you’re going to be dieting as a New Year’s resolution, bring us those canned goods and other items you’re not going to be eating.”
Cooper said every Food Bank dollar can leverage deliveries of seven meals to needy individuals. To contribute, or volunteer, visit www.nbfoodbank.org.
“If you find yourself in need, please find yourself at your New Braunfels Food Bank,” he said. “It is truly the spirit of the holidays to serve … I am grateful for the many ways people serve to help us fight hunger and feed hope.”