One year later, San Antonio Food Bank commemorates largest emergency food distribution


SAN ANTONIO – A year ago while quarantined at home, many residents began to receive news that they had been laid off or furloughed and their children were to remain home. The uncertainty lead people to wonder how they they would keep up with their bills, rent or mortgage and feed their families.

On April 9, 2020, thousands showed up at the parking lot of Trader’s Village to seek help at a San Antonio Food Bank drive-thru distribution event. The event became the largest domestic emergency food distribution and went on to make national and global headlines.

“(Last year) we were at a crossroads between the number of calls coming in and the amount of food that we had on hand, and (if we) should just try to make sure we get everybody taken care of,” said Eric Cooper, CEO and president of the San Antonio Food Bank. “It was life changing for us because we had never seen that kind of unprecedented need.”

Emma Ortega, 83, was one of the thousands that waited hours in her vehicle last year.

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“That day I remember it was such a hot day, so, so very hot,” Ortega said. That day was also when fear and reality surrounding the pandemic began to creep in Ortega’s mind.

“It’s hard to think that here we are, the richest country and our people are hurting for food, (and) our children are hurting for food,” Ortega said.

On Friday morning, the San Antonio Food Bank, Trader’s Village, District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha García and City Manager Erik Walsh commemorated the event at the same parking lot and highlighted the testimonies of clients like Ortega.

“It hurt to see their pain, to see their struggle and to want to do something about it, to just just to let them know that that we’re here in a time when we all felt so alone,” Cooper said. “I want to say to those families, thank you.”

Ortega admits it wasn’t easy showing up that hot day.

“I was embarrassed. I have to I have to be honest about it,” Ortega said. “I was worried (that) people are going to see (that I’m here)… you know, asking for food.”

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Ortega said it’s thanks to the friendly volunteers who helped that day and the box of hope she received that helped her overcome the stigma that sometimes surrounds hunger and asking for help.

“Everybody that was working and doing the distribution, they were all smiling, and I know they weren’t that happy to be out here in the heat,” Ortega said. “But they never made you feel bad.”

Ortega and the San Antonio Food Bank hope that Friday’s commemoration of the images of last year’s distribution help remind people there are still families who continue to struggle due to the pandemic.

Families still in need of assistance can get more information on the San Antonio Food Bank’s website.

To help the food bank’s efforts through volunteering, click here.

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