Ann Svendsen Sanchez is one of the directors at the Houston Food Bank.
They produce some 60,000 meals a month for local programs.
“Right now we’re in the production kitchen; we’re running a meal. We’ve got half the kitchen is actually preparing a meal for tomorrow. This side of the kitchen, on the right-hand side, is where we’re actually packing it out.”
The food being prepared today will be packaged and leave the warehouse next week for its destination.
“We have a large rotisserie oven that we use to cook whole muscle meats. We cook a lot from scratch. We don’t use a lot of convenience foods. So our meats are cooked fresh and unseasoned, so that we can control the amount of sodium and additives that’s being added to our food.”
This time of year Svendsen Sanchez says the needs of the food bank go up. Children who normally participate in the free breakfast and lunch programs at school are now at home causing a strain on family resources.
“This period of time is when kids don’t have school meals to depend on and it’s really hard on families to keep food in the house. These kids want three meals a day and there’s just no food for them to eat, so this is one opportunity to feed them a nutritious, hot meal once a day.”
The food bank depends not just on food donations, but donations of labor as well. On this day, there were at least four volunteers in the kitchen helping package food. Vanessa Cruz was one of them.
“Where we live, we have to do community service. We have to do like hours, so we come here and volunteer.”
“It’s very important that people understand the school lunch is a very important part of kids’ lives and when we don’t have it in the summer, they’re living on ramen noodles and soda and things that just have no nutritional value at all.”
Svendsen Sanchez says most of the food used to prepare hot meals is donated from big companies. But they still need cash donations from the public. She says even with the volunteers, it takes a lot of money to run an operation this size.