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Another Mega Drive Planned After 10,000 People Line Up At San Antonio Food Bank

AP Photo/Eric Gay
Workers and volunteers help load cars with food at a San Antonio Food Bank drive-through distribution in San Antonio, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and p

The San Antonio Food Bank is in dire need of monetary donations and volunteers as demand on its food stock has doubled during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The food bank plans another mega drive thru food giveaway at the Alamodome on Friday, April 17th beginning at 10 a.m.

A large-scale food giveaway at Traders Village on the Southwest Side Thursday attracted 10,000 people in a single day. Aerial images shot by television news helicopters showed long lines of vehicles stacking up and made national headlines.

The scenes drew the attention of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who told reporters at a recent news conference the food giveaways should be decentralized and suggested grocery stores would be one option.

“The last time I heard there was more than 100,000 people on what we referred to as food stamps before,” Wolff said. “And I know unemployment benefits are starting to come in. So, we need a system where it’s done in stores, rather than have a person drive a car and sit for, I don’t know, two and half, three, four hours to get in.’

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said a city team focused on food and shelter needs is looking into the issue.

Food Bank President and CEO Eric Cooper said the food distribution had been more decentralized, but could not keep up 

He said the mega giveaways are needed because the 500 smaller pantries it operates in 16 counties of Southwest Texas were simply overrun by demand and any many of their volunteers are staying at home during the outbreak.

“They’ve seen twice the demand that they normally see, going from feeding 60,000 people a week to now over 120,000,” he said. “In efforts to mitigate the traffic flow at the pantries and to get the families fresh produce, The San Antonio Food Bank went to a mega distribution.” 

To keep the lines of vehicles moving, Cooper said participants must pre register online at safoodbank.org or call 210-431-8326.  He said those without transportation can get help getting to the mega giveaway.

“If you are lacking transportation and can’t get out, you can identify that when you register online or when you call the help center,” he said. “We have homebound deliveries made daily by our partnership with via trans and many volunteers who are delivering food to families.”

Food bank officials said pre-registered visitors at the drive thru giveaway can also keep the lines of cars and trucks moving by staying in their vehicles during the process and clear out trunk space in advance.

He said it will take two to three shifts of one-hundred volunteers each to assist drive-thru motorists.

Food bank officials say their food stock appears to be in good shape through the end of April, but May looks less promising. If donations do not continue to come in, they will need the help of state and federal emergency management officials to keep up with the demand for food.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.

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