The San Antonio Food Bank reports its food inventory has dropped to a 10-year low and donations are badly needed.
Poverty is the main cause of demand on the food bank, according to Michael Guerra, the food bank’s chief development officer.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services set 2018 poverty levels at $12,140 for individuals, at $16,460 for a family of two, and $25,100 for a family of four.
Guerra said it's probably not surprising poverty is the number one cause of hunger, but what is surprising is what he calls the “hidden hungry.”
“On college campuses, a recent study said that ... nearly one third of all college students on a four year campus are going to face food insecurity this year,” he said. “When it comes to a community college campus, also half will face food insecurity, struggle with hunger.”
He said the other major group in the hidden hungry are seniors. He said between 2001 and 2016, there was a 200 percent increase in the number of seniors who struggled with food insecurity.
“We are seeing that in San Antonio for sure. We’ve got a lot of people retiring here,” he said.
College students often struggle to pay tuition and housing costs while working low wage jobs, while seniors often retire without sufficient income and struggle with medical bills, Guerra said.
He said both college students and seniors feel they can cut food costs from their bills, but the price students may pay is in stress and poor grades when underfed, while seniors can face life threatening illnesses due to poor nutrition.
Along with an increase in demand for food in San Antonio, volunteers are also in short supply. Volunteer Sylvia Halbeisen said she finds the work very rewarding.
“Each one of these boxes represents a person and that makes you really into what you are doing so that’s why I’m here today,” she said.
She also says said it’s simple to get involved with the food bank.
“You can go online and look up the food bank’s website, or you can go to your local school if you are a college student, or if you work anywhere in San Antonio I’m sure that you can go to your employer and say that hey I would like to volunteer for the food bank and there are numerous ways to sign up online to do that,” she said.
For more information, visit their website at safoodbank.org. September is Hunger Action Month.
Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at tpr.org