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    1. Big Event was a big success at South Texas Food Bank

      by Salo otero | Comments (0)

      More than 300 TAMIU students and faculty members volunteered at this year's TAMIU Big Event that took place this morning - Sat., March 28- at the South Texas Food Bank facility. The students engaged in various activities, from bagging and sorting to painting the interior of the food bank office.

      STFB Interim Executive Director Erasmo Villareal said thanked all the TAMIU volunteers for this amazing volunteer effort. In tune with the spirit of camaraderie and goodwill, the students surprised the executive director when in the middle of their work they stopped and sang “Happy Birthday” to  him.

      “On behalf of the South Texas Food Bank board, staff and clients that we serve, I would like to thank each and every student and faculty member that volunteered at today’s Big Event, “ Villareal said.  “The work they have done here today is of great benefit to our operation.  We just can’t thank them enough.”

      Thank you to these outstanding young citizens of our community for keeping the less fortunate in mind and for giving back to their community.

      Please visit our Flickr account (South Texas Food Bank) or click on the link below to see more photos of the Big Event:

    2. South Texas Food Bank recipient brings cheer to nursing home residents

      by Salo Otero | Comments (0)

      At age 83, Oralia Gonzalez Roach feels  blessed by God.   One of her gifts is music and the ability to play the guitar and sing.

      She  firmly believes  in sharing   time, talent and treasure.  She makes time to volunteer her talent  and has become a treasure to the elderly  of  Laredo’s nursing home residents. Every last Friday of every month for the past seven years  she and a group of volunteers have brought smiles and some toe-tapping  to the residents of Retama Manor South  in Central Laredo near St. Augustine High School.

      Ms. Roach’s attitude of  giving back at her age is  not only awareness of her blessings, but also what she is receiving.  She is one of many  Laredoans  living on a fixed income.  “Just social security,” she notes, shrugging her shoulders.  “It’s  very hard. People my  age  have a lot of expenses. We pay  taxes, utilities, medicines and of course have to buy food and gasoline.”  She is still driving herself to all her commitments.

      One of the blessings coming her way  is  supplemental food assistance from the  South Texas Food Bank --  box of groceries per month via the adopt a family program.  A $120 annual donation sponsors a family or individual. She is greatful, “The food bank is a huge, huge help to me and many others.”

      Before being an adopt a family client, she was a donor to the program through her membership in the Catholic Daughters of America.

      “Adopt a family is a grass roots program of neighbors helping neighbors,”  South Texas Food Bank staffer Rev.  Miguel Zuniga noted.

      “Donors are a blessing to our food bank clients like Ms. Roach. How beautiful it is that Ms. Roach is giving back and like the saying, ‘paying it forward’.” Tax deductible donations can be mailed to 1907 Freight, Laredo, Tex., 78041. Check the website  for  more information.

      “Ms. Roach’s actions are powerful,” a food bank advocate notes. “Here is a woman getting help and  in turn bringing joy to others.  She is an example to all  about  giving and receiving. Amen to her and the group.”

      Born in Rio Grande City,  Ms. Roach has lived in Laredo since age 3, growing up in the old Azteca Neighborhood.   Her dad worked with the Tex-Mex Railroad. After obtaining her  high school diploma in the Laredo Junior College GED program, she became  a licensed vocational nurse in 1957,  studying at Del Mar College in Corpus Chrisiti.  She was a fixture for 32 years in the old Mercy Hospital newborn nursery working the 11 p.m. to  7 a.m. shift.  She was married to the late Robert Lee Roach for 34 years and has been a widow for 18 years.

      For more than 30 years Ms. Roach has been a part of several   choirs playing for residents at Retama South and  Regency,  Holy Redeemer Church and at funerals  throughout Laredo.    She acknowledges the inspiration from the late Lydia Mendoza of San Antonio.  Ms. Roach oftens wear a Lydia Mendoza shirt.  “Lydia was a singer for the poor. I was honored to play at her funeral seven years ago. Christ has given me  a gift.  I just enjoy   volunteering,” Ms. Roach beams noting, “some nursing home residents don’t have anyone visiting.   They just wait and see who comes in.”

      The last Friday of every month at about 2:30 p.m. is the day “Oralia y su grupo”  as they are affectionately called appear at Retama South.

      “We sing some of the old-time residents can identify with like La Martina, La Mesera.  Musica antigua,” Ms. Roach said. “We open with a prayer. Close with a prayer. The residents come to life. Some sing, some dance.”

      Ms. Roach and group are aware, “They don’t get many visitors during the week. People are working and going to school and can be there only weekends.”

      On that Friday, the group catches up on birthdays.  Through the years, they have sung a lot of Mananitas  (the traditional birthday Mexican song).  The most memorable one for Ms. Roach was, “When I was 80, we had a special serenata for a person who was 101. I told her, I’m a teenager (compared to you).”

      Among Ms.  Roach’s group are husband  and wife, Pedro and Magdalena Hernandez, ages 74 and 71.  They are featured singing  a duet at the monthly gathering. Pedro is the lone man. All others are  women Maria Jimenez, Maria Candelaria Castillo, Alejandra Villela, Mercdes Leal, Mariadelia Almendarez, Maria Flores, Racquel Bradley, Maria Guerra and Ceci Aguilar. Others join from time to time. Ms. Roach greets each of her “band” with a hug, kiss on the cheek and sometimes  places the sign of the cross on their forehead as they prepare for their singing party.

      Most of the 86 Retama South residents are in their 70s, 80s and 90s. “It’s beautiful what she does,” says Maria Arispe,  Retama South activity director.  “Mrs. Roach brings a lot of joy and happiness to our residents. They just love it.”


    3. Looking for a different Christmas gift idea? Try South Texas Food Bank programs

      by Salo Otero | Comments (0)

      An alternative  gift during the Christmas holidays?  Think  about  a donation to the South Texas Food Bank mission of  feeding the hungry through its several programs.

      The South Texas  Food Bank (STFB),  celebrating  its 25th anniversary, opened  in 1989 under the  auspices of H-E-B as the Laredo Webb-County Food Bank distributing  supplemental food to the unemployed, under-employed  and those living on fixed incomes  especially  the elderly.   The STFB,  member of  Feeding Texas  (formerly Texas Food Bank Network)  and the national  organization Feeding America,  now serves an eight-county area  from  Del Rio (Val Verde County)  to Rio Grande City (Starr County),   helping  an average  of 27,000  families, 7,000 elderly and 500 veterans and their widows per month.  And  serving  an average of 1,500 children  2,500 meals Monday through Friday  in the Kids Café program at  23 sites, including 19 in Laredo-Webb County.  The STFB is located at 1907 Freight at Riverside in west Laredo,  phone (956) 726-3120, website,  facebook and twitter.

      “With a poverty rate of 33 percent and a childhood hunger rate of 40 percent in our area, the need for the most basic of  needs – food and water – is huge,” notes South Texas Food Bank interim director Erasmo Villarreal.  “Hunger in our own backyard is not acceptable.”

      One of the STFB highlights is the Adopt a Family Program.   The sponsorship program originated at the South Texas Food Bank  11  years ago.  It allows  an individual, a family or an organization to donate $120 for the year.  In return  a needy family  receives a bag of groceries per month for one year.  Almost  500 are on the program, but  with a waiting list of  60.  About 10 Laredo donors to the program adopt one family per month. One family,  including  the  three children, walked into the food bank office just before Thanksgiving  this year  saying  “We want to adopt  two families.”

      Rev.  Miguel Zuniga, minister of the Laredo Church of Christ and an employee of the  South Texas Food Bank calls  adopt-a-family  “grass roots in nature. The program is local. It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”  In that vein  Rev. Zuniga and the  South Texas Food Bank  development department  has  mailed  all Laredo   evangelical  pastors  “an invitation  to you and your congregation to join in a concerted effort to pass the basket during your scheduled service  to help the food insecure of our Laredo through a special second collection in December.”

      The South Texas Food Bank, through its buying power via Feeding America and Feeding Texas, converts every dollar donated into 10 pounds of food, $17 worth of groceries or eight meals.

      Other STFB programs include:

      Commodity Surplus Food Program (CSFP):  A USDA program mostly for the elderly (age 60 and over). More than 7,000 elderly  receive a monthly bag of groceries. Unfortunately,  there is a waiting list of 1,000-plus. Those on the waiting list are candidates for adopt a family. Supplemental  Nutrition Assistance Program  (SNAP, formerly food stamps):

      South Texas Food Bank staff members assist, especially the elderly,  with applications at the food bank office, community events, public  locations or even at the applicants home.  More than $20 million per year  of food stamp money allocated to Webb County  remains not  applied for.

      Emergency Assistance: The South Texas Food Bank distributes food at 80 pantries throughout the service area, including 40 in Webb County. An emergency bag  is given  to those in immediate need. More than 150 per month receive emergency aid.

      Kids Café:  Sadly,  Texas ranks No. 1 in the nation in childhood hunger at 22 percent.  Even sadder, Laredo’s childhood hunger is 40-plus percent. Nineteen Kids Cafes in Webb County  serve an afterschool meal  to more than 1,500 children Monday through Friday during the school year. The largest Kids Cafes are at  Laredo Boys and Girls Clubs sites -- Roberto M. Benavides,  Lamar Bruni Vergara, Northwest, Rio Bravo and El Cenizo Clubs.

      Ranchers for the Hungry: Ranchers can donate  deer, steer or any other livestock.  The program was named Food Resourcing Program of the Year in 2012 by Feeding America at the national Feeding America Network Summit in Detroit.


    4. South Texas Food Bank served 9.5 million pounds during fiscal year

      by Salo Otero | Comments (0)

      The  South Texas  Food  Bank distributed  9.57 million pounds  of  product equivalent  to just over one million  meals during  the fiscal year that ended  Sept. 30. The  numbers  were reported  by STFB executive director Alfonso Casso at the  recent October monthly board  meeting at Commerce Bank. The  9.5 million pounds surpasses by 42,000 pounds  last year’s total.  Meals  served  last year were 919,746 compared to 1,003,485 over the last 12 months

      A 501 c-3 nonprofit,  the South Texas  Food Bank (STFB),  celebrating  its 25th anniversary,  opened  in 1989 under the  auspices of H-E-B as the Laredo Webb-County  Food Bank distributing  supplemental food to the unemployed, under-employed  and those living on fixed incomes  especially the elderly.   The STFB,  member of  Feeding Texas  (formerly Texas Food Bank Network)  and the national  organization Feeding America,  now serves an eight-county area  from  Del Rio (Val Verde County)  to Rio Grande City (Starr County),   helping  an average  of 28,000  families, 7,000-plus elderly and 500 veterans and their widows per month.  The  Kids Café program at 23 sites serves an after school meal to an  average of 1,600 children  2,560 meals Monday through Friday.

      “The  South Texas Food Bank mission of feeding the hungry continues to be huge.  Hard-working wage earners     have   difficulty  making ends meet and  the  food bank is their safety net for food insecurity, ” Casso said.

       He noted the USDA and TDA-sponsored CSFP program, mostly for elderly 60 and over, has an average  waiting list of  1,300. The adopt a family program serves 450 per month with a waiting list  averaging  between 60 and 90.  Emergency  walk-in bags  average  200  per month compared to a 141 average last  fiscal year.

      It was  announced  that longtime board member Erasmo Villarreal has been named to the Leadership Council of  Feeding Texas (formerly Texas Food Bank Network) and businessman Hugo Flores is a new board member, replacing Tano Tijerina, who resigned. The  STFB board meets  at noon  the second Wednesday of  every month at Commerce Bank on Mann Road.  Anna B. Galo is the board president.

      The  Texas Food Bank Network  has  formally  marked a name change to Feeding Texas

      “Our new name is an important reflection of our new mission – to lead a unified effort for a hunger-free Texas.  You can learn more on our new website,,”   Celia Cole,  chief executive  officer of Feeding Texas, said.

      When the organization was founded in 1986 as the Texas Association of Second Harvest Food Banks (TASHFB), it was when food banks themselves were first taking root. At the time the name reflected  status as a trade association of sorts.  The group existed to represent food bank interests and provide a forum for newly-minted food banks to communicate, coordinate and negotiate.

      In 2006, a switch to the Texas Food Bank Network (TFBN) recognized  the organization had evolved and become more complex. No longer just a passive channel of communication, TFBN was guiding  food banks in becoming a more effective, cohesive and collaborative network of hunger relief organizations through technical assistance, new statewide partnerships and a stronger voice in public policy debates.

      Feeding Texas  CEO Cole  added, “Feeding Texas represents the next step in our evolution—to serve as a leader among all Texans who believe that hunger doesn’t belong here—and reflects our commitment to go beyond hunger relief to improve the health and economic stability of the people we serve.

      “We remain, as always, a statewide network of extremely dedicated and effective member food banks. But in our new role we want to go beyond leading food banks, to leading the collective action needed to solve hunger in Texas. Hunger is a problem that we can solve, but only if we act together. Texas is blessed with ample agriculture and a thriving economy. We have the knowledge and the resources necessary to create a hunger-free state. Families, charities, businesses and government all have a role to play—and we all stand to benefit.  Feeding Texas is here to identify and nurture those opportunities to collaborate and succeed.”

      The South Texas  Food Bank (STFB),  celebrating  its 25th anniversary,  is part of  the 20-member  Feeding Texas  network. It is located in west Laredo at 1907 Freight at Riverside.  It opened  in 1989 under the auspices of H-E-B as the Laredo Webb-County  Food Bank distributing supplemental food to the unemployed, under-employed  and those living on fixed incomes  especially  the elderly.   The STFB,  also a member of  the national  organization Feeding America,  now serves an eight-county area from  Del Rio (Val Verde County)  to Rio Grande City (Starr County), helping  an average  of 28,000  families, 7,000 elderly and 500 veterans and their widows per month.  And  serving  an average of 1,600 children 2,500 meals Monday through Friday  in the Kids Café program at  23 sites. Alfonso Casso is the executive director. Telephone number is 726-3120 and on the website



    5. Thank you Meg Guerra, LareDOS for being a South Texas Food Bank partner

      by Salo Otero | Comments (0)

      Yes, the South Texas Food Bank mission of feeding the hungry is  one of the most important, if not the most important,  in  all of Laredo. Afterall, in the hierarchy of needs, food ranks No. 1. And with the poverty rate of 30-plus percent, food insecurity ranks high among our friends and neighbors in South Texas.

      It is impossible for a non-profit  501 c3  organization like the South Texas Food Bank to do its mission alone.  The STFB needs “co-missioners”, aka advocates.

      High on the list as one of the greatest supporters of the South Texas Food Bank has been Meg Guerra and her monthly  tabloid publication, LareDOS. 

      Every LareDOS edition since 2007 has included a column with information  about  the  South Texas Food Bank.  The column, written by Salo Otero, South Texas Food Bank Marketing Director, has brought awareness to the  hunger issue in our community.

      Unfortunately, the talented journalist Meg Guerra published her last issue of LareDOS this past September.  Her “30 Good Night and Good Luck” cover ended the ride. It was a business decision.

      The  South Texas Food Bank staff, headed by executive director Alfonso Casso and board  of directors,  headed  by board president Anna Benavides Galo,  want to sincerely express their gratitude to Maria Eugenia (Meg) Guerra  for being  a friend of  the food bank all these years.  

      To Meg: Many a time you would comment, “You (the South Texas Food Bank) are really doing God’s work.” And you, certainly were instrumental in this work.  Once again “gracias” for your labor of love.   May God continue to bless you and your future endeavors.


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