Fighting Hunger In San Antonio

By: Lorne Chan

The best way to get Gregg Popovich riled up, according to San Antonio Food Bank president and CEO Eric Cooper, is to give him some statistics.

One in four children in San Antonio faces food insecurity. They don’t know when their next meal will be served.

About 49 million Americans are food insecure, and Texas is the second most food insecure state in the nation.

On Monday, Popovich and the entire Spurs roster pitched in to fight hunger with the fifth annual Champions Against Hunger dinner at The Grill at Leon Springs.

“In San Antonio, we have a great need,” Popovich said. “The Food Bank serves about 58,000 families each week. We have a lot of kids and families who need meals. The need never seems to go away, and this is one example of what we can do off the court.”

Players donned aprons and held towels as they served plates for the charity dinner. Boris Diaw served as the in-house sommelier, giving his wine recommendations. Andre Miller, in his first act as a Spurs player, joined in shortly after arriving in San Antonio.

 “Boris has that towel over his shoulder like he thinks he’s in Bordeaux,” Popovich joked.

According to the Food Bank, proceeds raised from this one dinner will provide about 1.2 million meals for the San Antonio community. Proceeds raised over the life of the event have provided more than four million meals.

A New York Times story last week cited a study showing that San Antonio is the most spatially unequal city in the country, meaning it has the widest gap between wealthy zip codes and impoverished ones.

“Everybody knows there’s disparity, but it’s almost an embarrassing situation,” Popovich said. “If you’re doing well, you should be embarrassed if you’re doing nothing to try to ease that gap. Whether it’s spending time with organizations, giving money, or both, it’s a responsibility that cannot be denied. If you deny it, shame on you.”

The Food Bank works with 530 partner agencies to “feed the line” in providing food assistance, and also has programs to “shorten the line,” with culinary training classes and a farm-to-table initiative.

About 40 percent of the food passed out is now produce, with some of that produce coming from the Spurs Community Garden located on the grounds of the Food Bank.

One of the Food Bank’s key focuses is to address gaps for children. While children in poverty have public school lunches provided for them, they often go hungry on weekends, holidays or during the summer. The Food Bank hopes to step in to fill those gaps.

 “We’re not only addressing the vital issue of hunger, but our goals have to be about nourishing the community,” Cooper said. “This event will go a long way, and it means a lot to see how much Pop and the Spurs truly care about hunger in San Antonio. A lot of the Spurs have made sure we know they’re just a phone call away.”

Popovich has brought the entire team to volunteer at the organization’s headquarters in the past. Lately, many of the players have come on their own.

Cooper said Manu Ginobili has brought his entire family to the food bank, while the Spurs’ wives have volunteered as a group as well.

In December, Tony Parker brought his family to the Food Bank, where he helped feed a group by frying up some tater tots in the kitchen.

“The Food Bank mission is amazing,” Parker said. “At Christmas, I took my whole family to remind us how fortunate we are. To see people in San Antonio who don’t have food on their plates, we can’t take anything for granted. Not even a meal. That’s why I’m happy to help.”



For more on the San Antonio Food Bank, including how to volunteer, visit



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