In late 2019, John Galbraith contacted the San Antonio Area Foundation to propose the idea of donating a truckload of potatoes to small food pantries in our local region.

We were in the process of starting to find funders when COVID-19 hit and were not able to do anything in 2020. Galbraith contacted us again in late 2020 to plan a potato delivery for early 2021. We were able to find a donor and the potatoes were delivered in late January.

What makes this effort so unique is that it involves a group of churches and nonprofits in Virginia that glean produce from the fields and give it to food pantries. Gleaning is the salvaging of excess vegetables and fruit from farm fields to prevent waste.

Galbraith, a professor at Virginia Tech University, is originally from San Antonio and has relatives here. He wanted to provide food for people in need in our area. He contacted dozens of food pantries and ended up providing 27 nonprofits with anywhere from 50 to 1,600 pounds of potatoes.

Galbraith, whose family lives in the Hondo/Castroville/D’Hanis area, contacted the Society of St. Andrew and found out that no one else was shipping bulk potatoes to San Antonio and set up the delivery here. The intent was also to mentor a group of volunteers in San Antonio who would take the lead and make it an annual event.

“It was very gratifying to help provide potatoes to people in South Central Texas, where out grandparents/greatgrandparents, Ed and May (Jagge) Poerner, raised us,” Galbraith said. “They lived through the Great Depression when food was hard to come by – as it is now for out-of-work families. We wanted to give something back in their honor.”

More than a dozen Poerner family volunteers donated 42,000 pounds of red potatoes in late January.

The mainly faith-based food providers, who collectively serve 17,277 families each month, arrived from San Antonio, Floresville, Castroville, Hondo, Helotes, Boerne, and Bulverde. In all, as many as 150 families in the region are served monthly.

The event was sponsored by a grant from the San Antonio Area Foundation and a matching gift from a private donor in Virginia. The funds were used to pay shipping costs.

“The potatoes we donated would have been used for animal feed or discarded,” Galbraith noted. “Instead, we were joyous to be able to provide free-of-charge to food providers in a great time of need.”

The Poerner family is also connected to the Area Foundation through their donor-advised fund (DAF), the Terry Lunn Poerner Charitable Foundation Fund. Learn more about the many giving options (such as DAFs) the Area Foundation offers to our community by clicking here.

Gavin Nichols serves as a Senior Program Officer in the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Community Engagement and Impact Department.