Houston Food Bank
by Paula Murphy
For most of us, planning a simple family meal after a busy day is a dreaded task. You have to pick a menu, shop, prepare and then clean up. But for the thousands of Houstonians who go to bed hungry each night, such a “burden” would be a blessing.
Fortunately for those in need, the Houston Food Bank provides food to Houstonians who would otherwise go hungry. Since its inception in 1982, the non-profit organization has distributed more than 250 million pounds of food to the greater Houston area. To put it into perspective, the Food Bank provides the food that feeds between 8,000 and 10,000 people each day.
But the Food Bank does more than just provide food. It is looking toward a healthy future for our community. “To fully fight hunger, you have to do more than just hand out food,” says Food Bank Executive Director Brenda Kirk. “You must give knowledge, skills and guidance to make a lasting impact. Our goal is to help people realize that whether you have plenty or are in need, good nutrition is essential.”
To this end, the Houston Food Bank has instituted a number of nutrition-conscious programs. Through the strong support of Houston’s produce industry and Texas Fresh Approach, a partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that dedicates surplus prison farmland to growing fresh fruit and vegetables for the hungry, the Houston Food Bank is the national leader in the distribution of fresh produce, providing 7 million pounds of nutritious fruits and vegetables to the needy each year.
This fall, the Food Bank will bring Kids Cafe, the nation’s largest nutrition education program for children, to Houston. The after-school program, a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club, is a collaboration of area chefs, dietitians, students and volunteers that provides nutritious meals in safe surroundings, food safety and nutrition education and hands-on instruction to help create healthy lifestyles. The after-school snacks and regularly scheduled hot meals are prepared on-site with the help of the kids, all overseen by registered dieticians.
Operation Frontline is a program of the national hunger-awareness group Share Our Strength and will be implemented locally through the Food Bank and its member agencies. The unique program mobilizes chefs and dietitians to teach individuals the cooking and nutrition skills needed to make healthy choices on a low-income budget, leading them to better health and self-sufficiency. “With these programs in place, Houston will be a healthier place to live,” says Kirk. “Feed people through knowledge as well as food, and they will succeed.”
For more information, to make a donation or to become a volunteer, call the Houston Food Bank at (713) 223-2700, or visit the Web site at www.houstonfoodbank.org