As long as John Galbraith is around, needy South Texas families can rest assured that they will have hearty potatoes and vegetables to eat at home.

Galbraith is a college professor who lives and teaches in Virginia – but it so happens that he’s from San Antonio and he never forgets about this hometown when it comes time to give back.

Earlier this year, volunteers loaded 36,000 pounds – 108,000 servings – of potatoes valued at $18,000 into vehicles of 31 local area food providers.

“This is a unique charity event, open to any food provider free of charge. Just after Christmas is a good time to help families struggling to get through,” said Galbraith. “We saw no need for fresh nutritious food to go to waste at a time when so many people are in need.” 

The potatoes are provided free of charge, shipped in from northern Wisconsin by the Society of St. Andrew, the national gleaning society. The Poerner family also provided 28,000 pounds of carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, lemons and oranges – also free of charge. 

The donation was made possible through a grant from the San Antonio Area Foundation and the Terry Lynn Poerner Charitable Trust, a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) of the Area Foundation. 

“The grants from the Poerner Trust and the Area Foundation are an example of how we’re working in ways big and small to close opportunity gaps for people that need it the most in our region,” said Gavin Nichols, Senior Program Officer with the Area Foundation’s Community Engagement and Impact team. “Many of the recipients of the food from this event are parishioners from small rural and urban churches. We’re proud to be associated with this effort.”

Laura Giacomoni, the Area Foundation’s Executive Director for Development and Donor Services, worked with the Poerners’ DAF to assist the effort.

“This story illustrates how we serve as the most trusted and impactful philanthropic partner for our Donor Advised Funds,” Giacomoni said. “We love joining forces with our Donor Advised Funds because when we work together, we are able to deepen relationships, build trust and accomplish greater impact.”

The regional food providers, who reported serving 62,288 families (about 226,343 people) each year, hail from San Antonio, Floresville, Castroville, Hondo, New Braunfels, Converse, Spring Branch, Helotes, Schertz, Bandera, Boerne and Bulverde. That’s on top of the the 100,000 people served each week by the San Antonio Food Bank.

The number of families seeking food has risen substantially recently because many people have lost their jobs, are recovering from Christmas spending or been unable to go back to work following the pandemic. Government assistance from the pandemic has largely run out.

“We know that demand at food banks has increased greatly in recent months, so we wanted to give something back in honor of our parents and grandparents. Our goal was to provide fresh food rather than canned goods because it is better for people’s health and harder for low-income people to come by,” Ed and May Poerner said.

The Poerner family wanted to reach out to smaller faith-based food providers as well as larger food banks. 

“The potatoes we will donate would have been used for animal feed or discarded to a landfill,” the Poerners said. “Currently, over 40 percent of the food grown in the U.S. ends up being left in fields, goes bad before it can be eaten, or is discarded. Instead, we will be able to provide this nutritious, fresh food free-of-charge to those in need.”

As our region’s most trusted and impactful philanthropic partner, the Area Foundation works toward closing opportunity gaps for our neediest neighbors. This effort to assist regional food banks symbolizes the reinvigorated approach toward giving back to the community adopted through our new mission and vision. Want to get involved? Click here and here to get started!