Eric Cooper relocated to mountain Antonio in 2001 come take end the mountain Antonio Food Bank and get that on the appropriate path. In his time in ~ the SA Food Bank, the non-profit has raise a lot of money, included many programs, and has do it their mission to administer food because that today, food because that tomorrow and food for a lifetime. Eric Cooper is heartwarming, loving, and also genuinely cares about his mission and the mountain Antonio Food Bank’s success.


Justin Hill:Hello and Bienvenido, mountain Antonio. Welcome toThe Alamo Hour, stating the people, places, and also passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a neighborhood attorney, a proud san Antonian, and also keeper that chickens and also bees. OnThe Alamo Hour, you’ll acquire to hear indigenous the civilization that make mountain Antonio good and unique and the best-kept an enig in Texas. We’re glad the you’re here.

You are watching: Eric cooper san antonio food bank

All right. Welcome toThe Alamo Hour. Today’s guest is Eric Cooper. Eric is the executive director the the san Antonio Food Bank and currently offer in somewhat of a role as a tiny bit the a nationwide spokesperson because that food and security together a result of the crisis and also as a result of some push that mountain Antonio got. He joined the mountain Antonio Food bank in 2001 and has since taken the from really being on rather of a tenuous footing to yes, really a robust, important, and surprisingly, oddly, well-funded nonprofit in the city.

I to be doing some study on you. Prior to this crisis, 58,000 civilization a week gained help. 77 million meals a year, to me, type of a nerd around things. 2% overhead for y’alls budget. That’s something that unless people really pay attention, you don’t establish how vital that is and how yes, really a compliment to your administration skills. Thank you because that being here. I desire to acquire into some of these things, yet thank you for being here. I can’t imagine your time commitment, so I’m glad we obtained a tiny bit the it.

Eric Cooper:Hey, at sight excited to it is in on the show. It’s a an excellent city and we’re simply so privileged to it is in a part of it.

Justin:I think that’s a an excellent city. That’s why I started this whole thing. You and also I were kind of joking how you gained these san Antonio stories. I relocated here and I’ve met a weird, fascinating array of characters and also I to be hoping come share that with this show. Us haven’t met before, yet you’re in together a large spotlight ideal now. Ns knew about the mountain Antonio Food Bank. I’ve learned for this reason much much more about it, therefore I desire to speak to you about it. First, I’m going to put you through type of our top 10 list we go v to obtain some shade commentary on who you space as a person. I’ve read a bunch of her interviews prior to you acquired here today. I want to–

Eric:Sorry about that.

Justin:Well, a most it, ns don’t want to retrace steps. Several of it, I desire to gain some brand-new information. When and why did you relocate to san Antonio?

Eric:Well, I’ve been in food bank for about eight years. I actually acquired my start in Salt Lake City in ~ the Utah Food Bank and also then do my means back residence to phibìc Texas. I thrived up in the Dallas-Fort worth area. There to be an possibility to serve through the phibìc Texas Food bank which, at that time, they had their facility in south Oak Cliff. I was over there a pair of years and had watched as the mountain Antonio Food bank somewhat struggled. Us went through around four CEOs in a two-year period. Two of castle had gained fired and also the other two had actually quit. The board was struggling. The food bank was struggling.

I figured ns couldn’t screw the up any worse and they available me the project at that point. I became their youngest executive, management director. I love one opportunity and I simply saw such an opportunity to serve people in need. I knew i was going to dedicate mine life towards placing food ~ above the table because that families. Together I had actually traveled south Texas and also seeing some of our border communities, it’s few of the most extreme poverty in the joined States. Ns knew I wanted to offer an area that had actually that need. As soon as the chance arose, the board available me the position and also I had to take it.

Justin:The rest is history. You’re quiet here.

Eric:It is. It appears crazy the now, 19 years ago, we were such a little organization. There’s some components of that that ns miss. We had a $1 million cash budget and also 18 employees. Us were doing around 10 million pounds that food. Today, we got about 250 employees and also a $26 million budget.


Eric:We’re pushing, hopefully, 75 come 80 million pounds this year. It’s been a most growth, however it’s to be stable. Mountain Antonio has just reliable us and also built on us. We’re feeding a lot of folks. Unfortunately, there’s a need. Mountain Antonio had struggled prior to COVID. There’s just a at sight high price of poverty. As soon as you think around other cities in the joined States, mountain Antonio has, actually, the biggest percentage the our populace living in poverty, and so COVID just pushed therefore many new people right into that space. Most world don’t probably totally understand the poor line. Man, if you’re in poverty, you’re yes, really hurting. Those room folks the for a solitary individual, you’re making less than $10,000 a year. If you’re make 12,000, 13,000, 14,000 a year, then you’re the end of poverty. You’re not making it, right?

Justin:Right, yes. The working poor.

Eric:The functioning poor. That’s the families. That’s type of our typical client. In this COVID-19 crisis, so numerous of those family members just a paycheck away from gift hungry now discover themselves in our lines.

Justin:I check out a publication calledNickel and also Dimed. It had to be twenty years ago and it was a great study for– i was a boy at the time and also I review that and thought, “How go these–” that really changed my perspective about people who work due to the fact that people are always looked down upon who essential assistance. When I check out that book, ns learned these human being are functioning their butts off and also even still, castle can’t acquire it together.

I was reading about some that the– Look, there are an excellent stories that are coming the end of this. You’re see the best in a most people. One of the stories I thought was really cute and also funny to be the girl who offered the lemonade was standing money to the food bank. Any type of other sort of funny stories choose that where world have just said, “I don’t have much, but here, you can have it”?

Eric:Yes. Again, there’s room at the table for everyone to struggle hunger. Ns think the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve seen simply our ar at its ideal where you’ve gained individual philanthropists choose Harvey Najim giving three-quarters that a million dollars. USAA giving $1.5 million. Jeff Bezos gave $100 million throughout the United claims to food banks. Simply insane generous, kind gifts, but then on the various other side, there’s this assumed that those that have actually the the very least sometimes provide the most. It’s simply a reality when it pertains to percentage the their income what they have the capacity to do. I’m simply humbled through it. Ours food drives along the south side of san Antonio usually bring in a couple of more can be ~ of food. Small Chloe and her lemonade was standing or for this reason many world gave your stimulus checks back.


Eric:Probably, the many humbling was a woman provided $40 and also left a note that she actually remained in a vehicle in the heat on April nine when us were at Traders village and served 10,000 families. She said, “I satellite in the car. I got the food. The food bank didn’t fail me and also I had the ability to nourish myself. The next week, my ceo who had actually laid me off called and said they had actually a few hours. I can start working.” She said, “Knowing that i was walking to acquire a paycheck, I wanted to salary it forward.”


Eric:She sent out in $40. I think that’s really where we sit at the food bank. It’s type of the crossroad in between those the have and those the don’t have. Those the don’t have need a small help, and also then those that do have actually kind of are in this place of caring and sharing. Ns think lock walk far feeling an excellent about the transaction just like those that got the food. It’s nice cool to be in the middle of that.

Justin:Not a many unhappy customers.

Eric:No, no.

Justin:Chloe’s lemonade stand, it’s favor a $1,000. I never had that whenever i was a kid.

Eric:Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Lemonade, the price walk up.

Justin:You’re from phibìc Texas. I’m from phibìc Texas. We talked about that prior to the show. I have friends that involved San Antonio. I haven’t lived right here as lengthy as you due to the fact that I was 7 for me, yet I constantly say, “Okay. You go to the Alamo. Go execute those things, however you should go see–” Usually, I’ll speak the Japanese Tea Garden. I think the told me, “Go check out the old missions, not just the Alamo.” What are some of the concealed gems you tell friend or that you think space really simply neat surprise gems of mountain Antonio?

Eric:I have actually to very first just disclose. Gift from phibìc Texas, the course, I’m a Cowboys fan. It simply comes v being a Texan, however I was never a Mavericks fan. All those years, i just–

Justin:I was.

Eric:There was the era that the Celtics and also Lakers, so I probably was cheering for the Celtics a small bit. Comes to mountain Antonio, I ended up being a substantial Spurs fan. You can’t help because they are the genuine deal. It is simply a wonderful legacy of our city. To all those spurs fans, we’re san Antonio proud. Ns think our mission is very incredible. Most human being don’t realize the the food bank actually has a partnership with the Mission district, the nationwide Park organization with Mission san Juan.

When the missionaries constructed the missions, they had the farmland that provided all the food to every one of the missions. There to be this 10-acre plots of land. They were called Suertes. In Spanish, i guess that’s luck and also you were in a drawing to acquire a small parcel. They constructed the original acequia, which is the earliest water civil liberties in the state that Texas the drafts water turn off of the san Antonio River and also uses the water v topography, water the initial farmlands of mountain Antonio. We had actually our small 25-acre farm the end at the food bank.

It was mountain Antonio’s largest urban farm. The nationwide Park service reached out and said, “We desire to regain this land back to its initial farming capacity. We’ll offer you a 20-year lease because that a dissension a year if y’all come work-related the land. You can have all the water girlfriend want. You can use the land and also then usage those crops to help feed mountain Antonio’s hungry.” just the triple win. Win for them and a victory for us and a win for san Antonio families. Definitely, if you’re ~ above the Mission Trail, you absolutely want to see the mountain Antonio metropolitan farm in ~ Mission mountain Juan.

Justin:Are you using the original watering structure?

Eric:We are. Us are, yes.

Justin:Oh, that’s great.

Eric:Yes. There’s a portion of it the we completely do that Mission style and also then us did install part pumps come expedite some efficiencies. There’s part drip irrigation and some the the water conservation occupational that our farmer use, but–

Justin:Can anybody come out and also tour it?

Eric:Man, anytime, any type of day. If you’d like to gain in the dirt, there’s constantly something to be planted or harvested. We’ve got a pretty good-sized citrus orchard that we’re do the efforts to get started the end there.

Justin:Any bees?

Eric:There space some bees. It’s simply a good day. It’s a great day to walk out. You view the Mission. You check out the beauty beauty of the south-side san Antonio River, and also then you deserve to work in ours farm.

Justin:I didn’t recognize that. I’m finding out something new all the moment on that, yet that’s other that’s really best up mine alley. Space you a reader? If so, what space you reading right now?

Eric:Man, i am simply trying to record up v my emails. I’m a big fan of personal improvement, therefore Covey, Jim Collins. To be honest, ns am therefore knee-deep in profession publications. I’m certainly a man of faith, so the Scriptures have a component of my literature diet. My wife is the larger reader. Travel a bunch, I invest so much time in the car serving 16 counties right here in Southwest Texas the I evaluate shows prefer yours. Podcast, they’ve come to be the lazy reader’s escape.

I digest a ton, yet a huge fan the TPR and also NPR and just the prestige of journalism in today’s atmosphere where reality sometimes it s okay debated. In this COVID-19 crisis, it’s interesting since some of what to be happening here because of our need and also our efforts to try to fulfill that need, I stated on April 9th this experience. Now, we’ve excellent pop-ups because that forever, 25 years that I’ve been working in this space.

It’s usually a strategy because of refrigeration the you’re trying to relocate a lot of product to households that the bottleneck is few of our supply chain. The capability to inform the families ahead the time that, “We’re going to be in ~ this location. Come and also get food,” then we simply load them up in the trunks of your cars. Well, with the COVID-19 protocols, through physical distancing and also all that, this pop-ups became the perfect way to get food to families. What typically we’d serve pre-COVID would certainly be around 200 come 400 families. Appropriate at the beginning of COVID, it went to about 2,000 families.


Eric:Now, families would go with our website and pre-register. We began to watch as we were gaining deeper into the crisis. The was probably about the 3rd or 4th week, families’ paychecks were gone and also we knew the there to be a enlarge need. We planned on serving 6,000 families, which would be just historic for us at one time. 10,000 households actually ended up mirroring up. If you can imagine 10,000 families, that’s about 50,000 people. We spread in a day around a million pounds of food.

We had actually 25 semi-trucks of food that we just blew through trying to do sure households were fed. If it wasn’t for hundreds and hundreds the volunteers and a great facility the end there at Traders Village, us wouldn’t have been maybe to execute it. It was theExpress-Newsthat come out just covering the story that recorded the images of the day, which we just kind that knew the it was unprecedented the number, however we didn’t really realize, ns think, what had happened till we all read the paper that night and saw the photos like, “Wow. Yes, that’s–“

Justin:That’s the work those iconic images that went nationwide were taken?

Eric:Yes. The went viral in the feeling of, i think, you can’t debate a picture, right? That picture just captured, i think, the essence of what was happening across the joined States. All food banks, all cities are having these unmatched lines, yet the fact that the photographer captured an image of so plenty of cars parked in a way waiting for food that ns think make everybody realize the there’s a substantial need across America and more needed to be done to feeding it.

Justin:We’re walking to obtain into more in-depth, yet how is the require being filled appropriate now? space you may be to fill the need right now? has there reached a breaking suggest or so far so good?

Eric:Yes. Us went from feeding the 60,000 civilization a mainly pre-COVID to now 120,000 and we simply haven’t seen any relief. I think we certainly are doing much more distributions due to the fact that we learned that takes every day come serve family members if you’re law 10,000, so we try to keep them to about 2,000. We just had actually one this morning the end at Toyota Field. We acquire done in about an hour and a fifty percent if there’s 2,000 families. Many more than that, the wait time’s great.

Where it’s going, we don’t know. I think there’s estimates I’m hearing native the chamber. It could be 20% come 24% unemployment. Till our hospitality, hard-working, blue-collar community gets ago to work, ns think the food bank’s walk to check out a lot more clients than we ever have. We’re walking to carry out all we have the right to to accomplish that need. You asked around food supply. Pretty much for eight weeks, it’s been exclusive donations.

It’s been residents that have funded and supported ours response. I’ve pushed and pushed on city, state, federal assistance to come our means and they heard it. They responded, but it’s much less nimble and so we still space in the procedure of landing the state support. Castle funded, with the Texas department of Emergency Management, $9.1 million to acquisition food, which for united state will median several hundreds semi-truck lots of product. To put it in perspective, that’s around 50% of our food because that a 30-day period.

We blow through it pretty conveniently when we’re feeding the variety of families we’re feeding, which, i think, hid the in the start is, i don’t think world realize the food financial institution on a normal take will go through about $125 million in food in 12 months. That’s what it required to feed 60,000 civilization a week. Our spending plan today if you’re reasoning on a 12-month period, we’d need around $250 million in food. That’s just hard to acquire out of our community, that lot support. Because that eight weeks here in our city of mountain Antonio, this city stepped increase in a major way and also people to be fed.

Justin:Oh, I had Ron Nirenberg on, ns guess, two guests back in his small birthday fundraiser. I think that tried to reach a thousand and also it became 64,000.

Eric:Yes. No. Shea Serrano raised $100,000. I don’t recognize if you know GP Singh, but he raised, i don’t know, like quarter of a million. Jose Menendez raised, ns think, $400,000. Harvey Najim and the community, v the help of WAI and also Fox KABB, raised $5.4 million. It’s been humbling. It’s to be mind-blowing, however you’re like, “Man, whereby will the future it is in in fundraising?” since we’re consuming so much of it and spending so lot of it that so countless nonprofits room hurting. Ns feel it. We perform a many special-event fundraising at the food bank.

We’ve gained a golf tournament, a gala, a 5K, every that kind of stuff and also all that’s gone.You don’t have occasions in the present environment. We had actually to cancel some of our fundraisers, however our urban stood up and also supported us. We established the volunteer components. Still, hundreds of volunteers come in every day to assist us. We have solid COVID protocols. If listeners room interested in coming out and volunteering, either at a distribution or at the warehouse, in ours kitchens or also on the farm, just provide us a call or visit us online in ~ and we’ll put you come work.

Justin:That to be going to be one of my questions. Is the bigger challenge right now gaining manpower or money?

Eric:All is constantly a challenge. I think food is actually, most likely one of ours biggest obstacles just because of the it is provided chain being altered. Many people, unless you’re a food bank nerd, food is on 2 sides. There’s the retail side which is groceries and then the foodservice side which is restaurants. The foodservice side, due to the fact that at closures, basically bottlenecked everything.

Nobody might go out and eat and also so everyone was grocery store shopping and also we all saw the empty shelves at H-E-B and Walmart. Well, that much need on the retail side, climate you have actually down the it is provided chain, farmers, growers, dairymen, ranchers, all those males that were selling right into the foodservice side were currently trying to pivot to get to the sleeve side due to the fact that that’s where the customers were.

Some of that began to spoil. Photos of farmer breaking eggs and also not hatching chickens and cattle farmers below in Texas simply struggling and farmers descant under fields. That need to never, ever, ever happen. Food garbage is appalling and the food financial institution is over there to try to record that margin. Since it was so great, we couldn’t capture it all and also it needed a publicly intervention.

Finally, USDA has come up v some tactics to shot to procure that food and then journey it into food banks. The 4 things we need, i guess asking what we require the most is food, time, money, and also voice food with those food donations from market or food drives. Time through volunteers, obviously, jae won contributions give us the capacity to leverage the 98¢ out of every dollar.

When world hear $1 equates to seven meals, that leverage ability is because folks trust us through their financial investments, and then voice again, gaining the word out. Folks listening to this, share it. Share it with your friends. Say, “Hey, look, us heard Eric talking about the food bank. There’s some an excellent opportunities.” gaining the word the end is a huge part of ours work, helping human being understand what’s the need, how people can help, and then helping households that room struggling gain to sources that they no hope need.

Justin:Anyone ever tell girlfriend you look like Paul Rudd?



Eric:Here’s the joke.

Justin:It just concerned me.

Eric:I know. No. I’ve got 5 kids. My earliest daughter is 26 and my youngest is 16. Yes, ns am Ant-Man. To every one of their friends, “Mr. Cooper, go anyone ever tell friend you look like Ant-Man?”

Justin: I’m really good at celebrity sightings, so it was coming come me. What’s your favorite fiesta event?

Eric:Man, I would say staying clear of the crowds. This is a shameless plug, but we have actually Medals for Meals, i beg your pardon is an attempt to capture all of the do-good medal distributors, sellers to support our occasion where human being can donate $10 and get selections of various companies the are creating their medals. It’s just a fun fiesta event.

Justin:Is that official fiesta event?



Eric:Every year, we usually have actually a dozen or for this reason folks. Now, they say it’s $10. I think it’s $25 the you acquire dinner and margaritas, but then there’s all these medals and you get to get, ns think, two or three for free for comes to the event and also then they’ll have added medals top top sale because that $10.

Justin:Call if that happens. We’ll offer you some. Us just gained all ours in.

Eric:Oh good, good. Yes, yes. Girlfriend can carry your medals because that a cause.

Justin:You go business prior to you gained into the food financial institution side and also we’re going come talk about your transition, but one of the things that really stuck with me, which i really appreciated due to the fact that it’s my ideology as well, is you talk that some of the various other food financial institutions or some of the other world in the food industry– i don’t recognize the food insecurity, provisioning industry. Ns don’t know what you speak to it, but you said that you’ve ruffled some feathers by not staying in your lane. Ns don’t recognize if that comes from you as a human, you together a businessman, you running a nonprofit, however what is your philosophy and what your lane is?

Eric:I was just blessed to have some amazing parents. Together I was leaving the residence to do my method in the world, mine parents got divorced and also had a little brother and sister still at home. My dad took turn off from Argyle to Portland, Oregon, quickly ended up being a deadbeat dad and didn’t send kid support. I didn’t view him for a couple of years. Long story short, I uncovered him life homeless top top the roadways of Portland.

I to be a tiny business owner, entrepreneur. My business was blessed since I took several of the responsibilities that that shirked and also made certain that mine mom and also my small brother and sister got food. I learned this principle that i think the businesses room blessed when they fill those gaps in the community. Somebody has to answer the prayer and also cry the the poor. Finding out that principle and finding my dad, ns realized the my dad acquired food because a woman had actually a catering business.

Whatever food wouldn’t sell, she’d journey the roadways of Portland and also feed the homeless. Literally walk the extra mile. Ns came residence thinking, “Man, what was i going to carry out to make sure human being got nourished?” It yes, really is a tribute to mine dad. I had sold my business and felt like, “Let me do some occupational in this an are of nonprofits.” when I got into it, i realized, “Man, i was much more jazzed about it in helping people,” yet there to be this opportunity just to carry some company strategies.

Really, in the enterprise that i was a component of, ns shop for venture capital and also I knew what ROI and just sort of what investor were looking for. I simply treated the food bank the very same way. That was simply like, “What’s ours ROI? What can we put out?” If you’re concerned about administrative overhead, climate I want to be the most efficient nonprofit so the there’s no competition, right? There’s no factor why you wouldn’t want to provide to the food bank. It just started come work.

It’s just been this amazing, life-fulfilling opportunity for me to simply work in this space of putting food top top people’s table, however then learning the nonprofit board, accountancy business side 보다 the food market from ar to fork, every link in the food chain and also USDA and agriculture and say, “How deserve to we continue to improve? How can we continue to journey efficiencies?”

Being a little bit of a disruptor, but a disruption because that efficiencies and improvement, not for chaos and confusion and also destruction. I think there’s a hatchet in nonprofits that you should stay in her lane and also you shouldn’t endure from mission creep. Ns guess I’m creepy, man. I never thought of that as remaining in your lane, but staying maybe on the highway. There’s times as soon as you require to transition lanes and also maybe you get in the left lane due to the fact that it’s a little faster.

Justin:I think that’s a an excellent segue come the mission creep, as I understand it, has to do v the truth that you’ll do an ext than administer food. You’ll aid people gain benefits. You help job training. You have actually the farm. You have an arm that helps civilization who qualify, acquire vet service for your animals and also food for their animals. Offer us the people of what all the food bank is providing due to the fact that I never knew that till I began doing more research.

Eric:Yes, it’s a crazy place. Ns think we shot to build about this frame that civilization should work according to their capability and receive according to their need. That’s a philosophy and that with good nutrition and physical activity, you can heal the world, right? There’s four huge barriers come nutrition, income, geography, knowledge, have the right to you prepare the food, and also then just all the marketing in the food industry and also just what’s complicated.

End the the job when family members are hungry, it’s around food because that today. Our framework of today, tomorrow, and also a lifetime is how we move households from crisis to self-sufficiency. Families could walk in or go through our website or contact us. We’re walk to address their demands with physics food, either with groceries, through among our 550 circulation partners, or meals. When we’re doing that, we’re helping those family members then attach with food for tomorrow.

That’s yes, really helping them recognize the windy benefits prefer the Supplemental Nutrition assistance Program, SNAP, or Women, Infants, and Children, WIC, or the Children’s wellness Insurance program or medicaid or Temporary help to Needy Families. There’s a the majority of federal programs. Also for seniors, there’s a routine long-term care which, because that us, it could be a food benefit, yet then it additionally might be a healthcare advantage that can then strengthen the home.

So countless families, it’s about shifting expenses. It’s offsetting costs. If us can carry out utility assistance, then maybe there’s an ext money because that food. I never felt prefer we actually had to physically placed food on the table directly. If we were providing support come a family, that can indirectly put food top top the table. Our 3rd tier the strategy is really food for a lifetime and that’s about that conversation around work.

We satisfy so countless hard-working family members in san Antonio that they’re the working poor as we talked and also helping them. How deserve to they get much better skills? How can they sharpen their saw? How have the right to they speak to their employer around an increase? There’s a portion that struggle with employment. Maybe they lost their job and also they’re looking. There’s those that space unskilled. We have actually training programs.

We have actually three culinary schools that we operation in link to our production kitchens. Individuals can go through that training and also we’ll gain them jobs. In the hospitality foodservice community, we also have a warehouse maintain program. If you desire to learn how to run a forklift or a pallet jack or discover sanitation or inventory and we can gain you work at local distributors. The last part of our food for a life time is nutrition education.

We teach cooking an abilities and just how to obtain the ideal nutrition because that the dollar and really try to move civilization forward. There’s that old saying, “If you give a man a fish, you fed him for a day. If girlfriend teach them just how to fish, girlfriend fed them for a lifetime.” i like just to structure it that if she doesn’t recognize that you’re walk to pack a tuna fish sandwich, she won’t accomplish you in ~ the dock, right? She wants to, she wants to. She babies are hungry. If we don’t eat today, we can’t learn to fish tomorrow, right?

It’s yes, really this tandem approach that you’re like, “Look, permit us give a fish if we’re to teach the fish.” If you perform that, you deserve to stabilize a household and you can obtain them relocating in the direction that they want and also they need. Too numerous times, ns think us package it. It’s a “or.” It’s one of two people you teach them come fish or you provide them a fish. Surely, to teach is the much better thing. I think it’s no an “or” equation. It’s one “and.” You need to do both. That’s what the food bank is figured out to do.

Justin:You have actually such a enthusiasm for this. Ns wish people could watch you talk around this. You really do. I might be gift presumptuous, but I feel prefer does this come from somewhere more than simply your father’s story? You’ve gained a actual passion for helping and also feeding people and also you’ve got a an extremely compelling story, but is this faith-driven? Is this how you to be raised? Is it purely the situation with your father?

Eric:I think every one of us space pretty complex recipes and also lots of various ingredients that get in it. I’m no going to resolve hunger with a canned good. It’s really about a neighborhood of compassion. If ns can help with the conscience of our community– I obtain the privilege the lecturing at UTSA or Trinity or Incarnate Word. Oftentimes, I’m saying, “Look, you’re the future.” If I could have much more MBAs of conscience, which led to an ext CEOs that conscience where human being thought about sustainability in the sense of employment and opportunities for everyone and that civilization have what they need to accomplish their basic needs.

Bottom line, ns think my work-related is about bringing understanding. I have actually an understanding based upon the civilization I satisfy that that wasn’t a decision they made or this conversation the the worthy or unworthy bad or must I help this man or not? come me, ns love our city. Ns love our people and I think we need much less judgment and an ext understanding. As soon as you go the roadways I walk, when you fulfill the civilization I meet, it help me understand them. It just compels me come act.

I think that human being that don’t act many of the time, they just don’t understand. It’s a privilege to assist them come to the present that ns have. Ns think our city is walk to it is in much much better off when all of us recognize our neighbors and we’re act what we can to assist them. There’s a stunner thought. Carry out they need us or do we require them? In both sides, is it the human being that needs assist or the person that gives help that’s transformed? ns think all of us are better when we’re selfless, as soon as we’re sharing and we’re caring.

There’s some statistics roughly volunteers living much longer than people that don’t volunteer. Their high quality of life is enhanced. If you’re emotion low or discouraged or overwhelmed or depressed, specifically in this COVID-19 environment, it’s easy. The mental wellness side that this situation can obtain the finest of us, but the quickest and also easiest way for you come cure what ails friend is to start serving. It will certainly transform you. It will cure girlfriend in methods that you never ever thought possible.

Justin:You’re walking to gain me turn off of what I’m an alleged to be doing here, i m sorry is asking you questions. I have the right to just hear to you. You’ve got a very soothing like NPR, a means about you, but–

Eric:Is the Paul Rudd coming out?

Justin:No. Friend have found the perfect job for who you are to the level I’ve gotten to understand you in this quick amount that time. Your enthusiasm for what you execute is really contagious. Ns think that is most likely what the food financial institution has done so fine under her leadership. Have you seen any differences in community in between your job-related in Utah, your occupational in Dallas, your work in san Antonio? i don’t think anyone that’s questioning for aid deserves to be in the position. Native a community, ns think neighborhoods have their own language. They have actually their own feel and also they have actually their own identity. What’s to be different about San Antonio?

Eric:I think mountain Antonio, indigenous a nonprofit collaborative sense, Dallas, the city functioned in cliques and circles. If you’re in the right place, then you had opportunities. Utah was a little of the same. There was a many turfism and also San Antonio nonprofits. They’ve obtained it going on. I think it’s partially because the require is so an excellent that no one nonprofit has all of the answers and so we all work-related together.

I think what I would say, our forefathers, if girlfriend will, the Mayses, the Greeheys, all of those Red McCombs, all these individuals that really loved our city and put us in a trajectory that leadership and mindfulness of providing back. It’s cool once you begin to see the second, third, fourth generations now carrying that torch. I do think that san Antonio is segregated. We have the haves and we have actually the have-nots. I think it’s tough when you see those statistics, those realities. As soon as San Antonio, this last year, was ranked number one in the percentage of people living in poverty, we beat out Detroit. Friend think of like, “Man, Detroit.” That’s no what ns think anyone would certainly assume the you’re like, “Really? ns don’t think that. The can’t be right.”

Justin:Do you think it’s an education issue? do you think it’s accessibility to jobs that salary a life wage? Ron to be on the show and also he to be talking about that

this is exacerbated, highlighted worries that were existing in our community. It offers us an chance as we come out to resolve them since maybe girlfriend have changing mindsets of people who said, I’ll never be in those shoes that are now in the food bank lines. What perform you think the crux because that our community to traction up the have nots, together you said?

Eric:I just definitely, civilization that live in poverty have actually lots that issues. It’s complex. They might have lost their project or they’re underemployed. They might be, have their utilities shut off or they’ve got a the majority of debt or health crisis, yet someone that’s hungry, castle just have actually one issue. Till you resolve that one issue, again, you deal with hunger, climate you deserve to start to address the intricacy of poverty.

It’s education, it’s housing, it’s childcare and it’s opportunity, chance for a sustainable life wage. That’s what households want. You mentioned nickeled and also dimed. I’m always blown away at just how hard households work and yet battle to do it. I pulled up at some point at the together stoplight and I looked over and also this amazing Hispanic gentleman, looked prefer a grandfather, sit in the back of a work truck. I can see his gray hair and just together his hands they were simply so mighty and from functioning outside. I just sat city hall him and he was simply a an excellent looking guy and I believed he’s acquired grandkids probably. He’s obtained a wife. He’s working, law landscaping exterior in the Texas heat.

He desires what everyone wants, he wants opportunity and also has those very same needs. Most likely woke up before us and will walk to bed ~ us. Yet probably makes a fairy that’s far less than countless of united state have, therefore we have an opportunity to deal with that. I hope that coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, ours city claims enough’s enough. Just prior to COVID, we were talking about sick leave and also a section of the city saying poor idea to prolong sick leaving to workers.

Justin:Not just that, suing the city. It was an ext than just a whine, and also a moan, and also a groan. It’s a lawsuit.

Eric:Think around that in the COVID-19 environment where no going come work way not getting a paycheck, which way not paying your bills, which method when you have actually symptoms that could be COVID related, execute you no go come work? when you think around the outbreaks in a pandemic, you desire to have a safety net that allows your employees to protect their revenue so that they don’t walk under, therefore they don’t become homeless, that they don’t have their human being start to unravel because a boy is ailing or they have actually a mental wellness day.

I think for so plenty of of the civilization that i talked to the were against that, they prefer me have never let go a paycheck indigenous not getting here to work because I to be sick. Unless you deserve to relate come that, unless you know like the hourly worker not just gets nickeled and also dimed as soon as they beat in as soon as they gain there, yet they acquire nickeled and dimed as soon as they punch out. If lock don’t punch in in ~ all, that loss of income method some various other day throughout the week, they’re going to have actually to shot to make the up if they desire to do their automobile payment, if they want to do their energy payment.

I guess: v it’s just equity, opportunity. What go it take to make it in our city? I think that anyone should have actually those an easy needs met. The shouldn’t be about a lifestyle, but it should absolutely be about life and also life should be able to be sustained. Right currently in our city, there’s a lot of of human being that are reaching out for the lifeline the the food financial institution is providing. Ours city’s stepping up. Ns hope after COVID, many employers really think around that sustainability and also offer the they have for their employees.

Justin:I was analysis an interview and also you’ve talked around since 2001 till current some of the alters you’ve seen. You stated it offered to be more of the people that didn’t have a job or the civilization applying and also then it became people that were employed but just not making sufficient money to make ends meet. You seem very in song in the mindsets of people as it relates to the human being that space in need. Have you seen attitudes towards the needy change? ns feel together though end the last 10 year you’ve viewed this really much, us versus them, become more us versus them. Have you checked out that? do you feel that that’s a cultivation rift?

Eric:Yes, you hit it. It’s just starting at the Utah food bank and then move right into Dallas and coming here. Ours strategy was constantly like, man, what if we just got human being working? If we acquired them a job, then they would be the end of our line. The was yes, really the prize to poor was simply the Reagan era, the equipment to welfare is a J-O-B. There’s part minor reality to that, but I would say the price to poor is W-A-G-E, that is yes, really what it’s about. As soon as you conflict a minimum wage, the minimum wage should have a preferably age. It’s good if you’re life at home and it’s just a high institution job. Once you’re a parent or you’re make the efforts to do it in the economy, the minimum wage is inadequate.

A most employers would certainly say, well, Hey ns pay 12 bucks an hour yet when you’re paying 12 bucks an hour and you don’t insurance 40 hours, or you don’t market healthcare, can your employees make it and is that what you’d desire for her child? I recognize you’re expecting the future for our kids. The methods we want them come have. If more of us thought of that like, Hey, what would certainly I desire my kid? What would I desire my sister? What would certainly I want my little brother? that we’re family, we’re a large family and everyone’s needs need to be met. Us just need to balance out from those that perhaps have and see if us can get those the don’t have brought up. I think that’s our opportunity for ours city.

Justin:You disputed recently few of the obstacles that the food bank is having as it relates come the federal government, some easily accessible grant money that’s gone out. There was a tiny bit of a debate, a tiny bit of controversy swirling around was that the USDA provided a grant. That was fairly significant, 39.1 million, if i recall, come a event planning group, which probably they’re the best in the world, yet you discussed it a tiny bit and also if I’m reading through the tea leaves, my guess is there appears to be some confusion or some absence of transparency on exactly how that process was being managed.

What room you to run into? What room you managing from the Fed side, native the stateside? What are some of the difficulties you’re facing?

Eric:I call you, we’re so privileged to companion with the United claims Department of farming and we operation a the majority of their programs and also benefit from when they’re rescuing a market and buying up commodities, climate those products oftentimes share our shelves. Together the situation started come backlog those markets for dairy and also produce and protein and also foodservice started to take it the hit, plenty of of our food distributors are literally operating at around 15% the what they supplied to be.

So, USDA’s Coronavirus Farm assistance Program that was rebranded as the Coronavirus Food help Program and it’s now referred to as Farms to families Food routine was stood up so quickly. I don’t desire an armchair quarterback anybody, however in theory, this routine was to buy up those surpluses, bring earlier some that the employee to those food distributors, divert the food come food banks. Together the economy was strengthened, then that would change from the food banks ago to foodservice restaurants. Every you’re make the efforts to carry out is attach the dots.

USDA released an RFP. We operated with numerous food distributors that recognize the industry, handle produce, manage dairy, manage protein, who are really hurting. Once they placed in their bids, that was given a week’s period and climate a week later they were awarded, us learned that most of the companies we functioned with didn’t acquire contracts. There’s companies throughout the United states that we would have never guessed landed these government contracts. Now, I’m fair competition guy. If they want it, that’s great. The reality is they’re sponsor to provide food the we’ll get. We need them to it is in successful, and so we’re working through any firm that acquired an award through this process to shot to say, “Look, permit me explain how it works, and where these trucks are and where the food is and also how we have the right to work with each other to make sure that the contracts room successful.” It’s definitely included another layer of stress and also a lot of controversy since there’s a lot of of great food service companies that could have really used those funds.

I think every little thing in this dilemm has to be a little additional situation when friend think the the PPP program and the Lakers giving back money, and all of that– What it’d look choose on the prior end? What does it look favor today? Hopefully, several of this trickles under to actually acquire to the intended targets. Below at the food bank, I’m walking to occupational as difficult as I can to ensure that success is had actually when it comes to getting food because that the families we feed.

Justin:I want to talk to you around what I believed was the most impressive statistic. I observed a 2% overhead. I’m walk to simply mess v you, however either y’all have actually a tonne of funding or super low overhead. Just how are friend able come run? Overhead contains salaries, right?

Eric:Yes. All nonprofits room graded the very same way, and also there’s a many of good watchdog organizations like Charity Navigator and also others that put that upfront. Now, I’ve to be a believer in that, before even Charity Navigator existed. We’d placed our audited financials on ours website.

Justin:It’s dubbed something, a 1040?

Eric:Yes, her 990. The 990 is usually a nonprofit taxes return, that’s our identical of the 1040. It’s just vital to be transparent. Hey, if you’re not doing anything wrong, girlfriend don’t have actually anything come hide. I recognize we go about our job-related with a high level that integrity. Most nonprofits are probably, 7%, 8%, 9%, 10%. There’s definitely charities out there that are 30%, 40%, 50%. Ns think similar to anyone that’s do an investment in the stock market, carry out your homework, recognize who you’re supporting. If friend don’t, and you simply want to it is in Santa Claus, friend don’t care, that’s fine, but if you’re one astute investor, you want to drive affect and change, do your homework.

We are so blessed. We literally have 1,000 volunteer a week the come with our doors. I’ve acquired 40 men that space incarcerated, right now serving time, that are released from prison every day. They pertained to the food bank, they put in a complete eight-hour day and then they go back to jail at night. It’s component of your transformation, and restitution, and learning.

All these males are walk to it is in released in ~ 24 months, they’re all going to it is in needing jobs, they’re walk to be needing skills, they have to be given a second chance. Obviously, if they’re not, if nobody wants to rent to them, no one wants to rental them, then they’re going come get earlier into trouble, and they’re walk to be costing taxpayers a ton that money as we incarcerate them. All of these felons space working for me, they’re every non-violent. The number one reason why they’re incarcerated is either possession, drugs, or alcohol.

Those two addictions can sometimes provide someone a life sentence of poverty, and I just think in redemption. I believe that civilization can change, but I additionally believe in efficiencies, for this reason if i can get these 40 men to work-related for me, drive my efficiencies under while they’re feeling good about giving ago to the community, it’s simply a win, win, win, and merged with that, a great staff that really occupational hard, and a board the holds united state accountable. Every year, mine board’s after me to store within the margins lock set, and we’ve to be able to carry out it for many, numerous years.

Justin:Where are y’all in ~ in regards to your expansion? In terms of property, warehousing, and also staffing, space you all around where friend all should be? Or are you every busting in ~ the seams? What’s the next step?

Eric:It’s a great question. We’re therefore blessed in ~ our headquarters, 151 Old Highway 90, to have 40 acres, that’s ours campus. 25 acres, like I claimed is under agriculture. The warehouse is 210,000 square feet, and also we’ve gained a large scale commercial kitchen within the facility, with teaching gardens, classrooms, and all the stuff, however just before COVID, our have to ramp up our meal manufacturing out the the warehouse kitchen was needed. Now, I’ll stop for a minute.

We do have a branch facility in new Braunfels, an excellent little mini food bank, does everything that we execute in mountain Antonio up there, including a cooking school and kitchen. It in reality does the Meals on Wheels for Komal County, runs DaisyCares, serves a many families. Then we have a venison processing facility in Garden Ridge that enables us to capture wild video game and procedure that together a an excellent lean protein for families in need. Again, bending the expense curve, do the efforts to keep within efficiencies. Climate our main facility, and also then we likewise have then a kitchen in ~ the campus Haven for Hope. Us feed the homeless there, three meals a day, and also run a culinary school there.

Then our last facility is in Pearsall, under in Frio County wherein we have our create packing shed, i beg your pardon is really committed to functioning the farming community and also getting some of those fresh fruits and also vegetables from farmer to families in need. Every one of those space our properties, however there to be a farming trend in the food industry, and it’s finest described together a grocerant. It’s the blend of the grocery store store and a restaurant. There’s brand-new Krogers that space being built that have actually seven restaurants within the Kroger store.

You’ve viewed in our regional H-E-B’s, the farming footprint of an ext refrigerated and less dry, the concept of Meals Simple. H-E-B knows that it’s about convenience. Every one of us in this economy were operation at together a fast pace that nutrition and also convenience deserve to sometimes operation at odds. Once the dollar menu is too convenient, climate it’s going to take it its toll. Greater rates the obesity, diabetes, heart disease, all those are health and wellness issues, so for those the are income able to acquire H-E-B’s meal Simple, a an excellent nutritious meal that’s quick, it’s fast, it’s tasty, is what to be compelling united state to say, “What can we it is in doing at the food financial institution to provide a Meal simple to the functioning poor?”

So, we damaged ground top top a 60,000 square foot culinary center back in January the will offer us the capability to do around 50,000 meals a day. It will also allow some extr protein indigenous the wild processing. It will have actually a large culinary school and also a nutrition education and learning component, but it’s ~ above the 40-acre campus. It’s under construction right now. Now, just how we pay because that it? That’s a the majority of stress. Obviously, every one of the support we’ve been getting has to be COVID-related, so capital project fundraising is probably not going come be really fun in the following month or a year, but we’re cursed to it. We’re building it and it’ll it is in a large weapon in the fight versus hunger. I wish we had it opened up now.

Justin:How much needs come be raised for that?

Eric:It’s a $17 million project, and we’ve probably got about four, therefore it’s a lot of stress, however I’m make the efforts to just take the in stride. There’s some good foundations that are committed to it. We’ve obtained to deal with the crisis at hand and also keep the moving, yet you think around San Antonio as a hub city as soon as it comes to disasters. Ours worst nightmare would be a summer the hurricanes. If us have one more Harvey, that will drive world from the Gulf shore into ours city.

We’re the strategy, in partnership with the Red overcome in the city of san Antonio, to wake up mega shelters, which will require to help shelter world in place, however under COVID-19 protocols, keeping civilization distanced in a fixed shelter, must there it is in a organic disaster like a hurricane, tornado, flooding, any type of of that. I just pray that mom Nature provides us a break, however that kitchen would offer us the capability to accomplish really any kind of of the food production demands for any type of disaster that can come our way, consisting of COVID. We’re law a lot of of yielded meals, we’re doing a most meals in ~ congregate web page in addition to home-delivered groceries. Having an asset like that culinary center in the future will certainly be a huge part of mountain Antonio’s food security.

Justin:Really, i didn’t understand so much around what you all do. Learning around you all are such one integral part of our community, not from just the food insecurity standpoint, however all those various other things you all offer, i m sorry is yes, really fantastic. I think it’s a testimony to why you all have been together a effective nonprofit since you all space such a success in our community. Thank you for coming here.

I want to end this. I shot to save these approximately an hour, yet in among your interviews, someone was questioning how have the right to they aid in this times. You go through the volunteer or the money and then at the end, you just said, “Otherwise, simply be kinder and also smile more.” Why is that vital philosophy for you? just how do you think that affects people at large?

Eric:I just think that’s the answer. If you’re just kind, if you’re nice, there’s miracles. It’s connecting through people. Kinder, gentler, smiling. The shortest distance in between two civilization is a smile.

Justin:Eric, ns didn’t really know what come expect. I’ve heard so much about you. You’re together a change character, really in the nonprofit room but also just in the– ns think the identity of that we room as a city of being an excellent to every other and also we pole together. Mountain Antonio, in different way than a the majority of cities, rod together. Ns think people like you were the reason why. Thank you because that being here. When we get outside of that, you’re ago on the path of building monster facilities and also moving the food bank forward, ns hope you’ll come earlier on and we can talk an ext about what’s walk on with you all.

That’s going to perform it because that this episode. My guest wishlist continues and you hit one of them. Shea Serrano, we’re do the efforts to gain on the show. He’s to be a huge supporter that the food bank. Coach Pop, ns don’t think he’ll ever come top top the show, but we’re trying. Patty Mills is doing good things because that the city. Ns think it’s great to view Patty Mills yes, really immersing self in our city as our city and also not just to a guy who plays basketball here. That’s walking to carry out it because that this episode, and we’ll see you next time.

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Speaker:Thanks because that joining united state on this episode of the Alamo Hour. You are all what make this city so great. Us hope you join us following week. In the meantime, subscribe to our podcast. Check us out on facebook at or our website, Until next time, VIVA san Antonio.