Community Spotlight: The Houston Food Bank
The attorneys of Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C., believe strongly in community service. That’s why we have launched our “Community Spotlight” series. We want to highlight the work of individuals and organizations who make a difference in the lives of others and, in turn, make Houston and surrounding communities in southeast Texas such great places to live and work. We encourage you to get to know more about these individuals and organizations and, if possible, to become involved with them.
Get to Know the Houston Food Bank
535 Portwall Street
Houston, TX 77029
According to Feeding America, an estimated 40 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 12 million children. In other words, one out of every eight Americans suffers from hunger. Another way to describe this serious and pervasive problem is “food insecurity.”
The Houston Food Bank is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that goes a long way towards tackling this problem in Houston and throughout southeast Texas through its partnerships with local hunger relief charities and its array of highly innovative programs. In 2015, Feeding America named the organization its national Food Bank of the Year.
Fighting Food Waste and Hunger
The Houston Food Bank primarily collects and distributes food to hunger relief charities, or community partners. In an average year, the organization:
- Distributes 122 million nutritious meals, and
- Feeds 800,000 individuals
- Works with a network of 1,500 community partners.
Most of the food comes from grocery stores, wholesalers, distributors and other food industry partners as well as local farmers. However, the Houston Food Bank also accepts donated food items from individuals, families and organizations that hold food drives. Its Red Barrels program has been especially successful. Shoppers can buy a prepackaged bag of food at their local grocery store and simply drop the bag in the barrel while leaving.
The Houston Food Bank mainly collects and distributes non-perishable food items such as pasta, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter and other proteins. However, it also distributes fresh items, including produce, dairy and meats. The Houston Food Bank also helps to prevent food waste. After all, much of the donated food items would otherwise be discarded while people go hungry.
The Houston Food Bank does not distribute food directly to individuals and families. Instead, it works through its hunger relief partners. Those in need of food assistance can use the Houston Food Bank’s online Partner Locator to find a local hunger charity. They can also call the food bank at (832) 369-9390 for help with finding a partner in their area.
Award-Winning, Multi-Purpose Facility
The Houston Food Bank has every reason to be proud of its award-winning 308,000-square foot facility. You can find it located at 535 Portwall Street off I-10, or just inside the 610 East Loop. The facility includes a:
- Warehouse – Volunteers can be found in the mammoth warehouse area, collecting, sorting, packing and distributing food items.
- Pantry – The on-site Portwall Pantry stays open for extended hours and provides food to those who cannot access a local pantry.
- Kitchen – The 10,000-square foot Keegan Kitchen is a cutting-edge facility. It is also the home of the organization’s 535 Catering service, which provides box lunches, breakfast buffets, lunches and dinners for business and fundraising events. (The service does not use any food donated to the food bank.)
- Conference center – The center features a variety of spaces to host a broad range of events.
The facility is a cost-effective, “green” one, too. Thanks to donations, the Houston Food Bank was able to install 440 solar panels that cover a 5,300-square foot area on its roof. The panels have helped the organization to significantly cut its spending on utilities, or “save the equivalent of three meals per hour.”
Food Bank Programs and Events
In addition to food collection and distribution through its community partners, the Houston Food Bank offers many other programs, including its Backpack Buddy, Kids Café, School Market and Senior Box programs for children and elderly adults. Additionally, the organization offers nutrition education classes and trains individuals for jobs when they volunteer with the food bank. The Client Assistance Program (CAP) helps people to apply for health and social services.
Throughout the year, the Houston Food Bank also organizes or participates in events that help to support its mission. For instance, the Empty Bowls event allows people to make a minimum $25 donation and select a unique, hand-crafted bowl donated by local ceramic artists. Another popular event is the f.r.e.s.h. Gumbo Cook Off during Mardi Gras season, which raised $6,905 (roughly 20,715 meals) last year. Check out the website for a list of other special events.
How to Get Involved with the Houston Food Bank
You can help the Houston Food Bank to carry out its mission in several different ways. Here are a few ideas:
Donate Food and/or Funds
Food donations always help. You can donate a few grocery bags or boxes of food by simply dropping off your items in the lobby of the Portwall Street facility. If you are making a larger donation – for instance, your organization held a food drive – then you can set up a time to donate food at the warehouse.
The reality is that the organization can make financial donations go further. In fact, the Houston Food Bank reports that it can use every dollar donated to collect and distribute $6 of food, or the equivalent of about three meals. You can make donations online, by phone or by mail. You can also use monthly giving, giving societies, memorial or special day fundraising pages or fund drives to support the food bank financially.
Volunteers play a key role in the Houston Food Bank’s operations. Several opportunities exist for on-site and off-site volunteers to help with collecting and distributing food. Volunteers under the age of 16, however, must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
You should check out the Houston Food Bank’s website to learn about a wide range of other ways to support the organization such as ordering holiday cards, workplace giving, event hosting and donating a car, boat or other used vehicle.