STFB’s Ranchers for the Hungry wins top Feeding America award
BY SALO OTERO
South Texas Food Bank Marketing Director
LAREDO, TX -The South Texas Food Bank‘s Ranchers for the Hungry program has been named Food Sourcing Program of the Year for 2012 by Feeding America at the national Feeding America Network Summit in Detroit, April 17-20.
The STFB is a member of the 202-strong Feeding America network. The Feeding America conference was attended by STFB executive director Alfonso Casso Jr. and board president Kevin Romo. The Ranchers for the Hungry program director is South Texas Food Bank staffer Pancho Farias and the coordinator is food bank board member rancher-businessman Tano Tijerina. The Food Sourcing Program of the Year award is given to the food bank that develops a new or innovative approach to increasing pounds of food and grocery products to their community while maintaining efficiency in staff and financial resources.
Casso commented, “Having just returned from Feeding America’s Summit Conference, I come back in awe of the enormity of hunger in America. There are 202 affiliated Food Banks in the Feeding America network and no two are alike. Each one is different, each one had a different story. There were more than 500 people representing most of the Food Banks at this summit.
”The Feeding America Summit was in Detroit, a city which has been devastated by the economic downturn. It made us more aware of the plight of those in hunger. We heard some presentations by the food banks from Detroit and Michigan.
“I had the opportunity to meet with many executive directors and board presidents from food banks from all across the country. Everyone was equally committed to alleviating hunger. I was able to learn from all whom I met. Ranchers for the Hungry was only made possible by the local ranchers who have contributed. It couldn’t have been done without the leadership of staff member Farias who has spearheaded this effort for the last several years. This year’s success can also be attributed to STFB
board member Tijerina for his leadership in helping expand the program and to his family for their generous and selfless contributions.
”One of the persons impacted by Food Banks, was one of our speakers at the summit. Author Chris Gardner was homeless for one year and was helped by a soup kitchen. His life was portrayed in the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” in which actor Will Smith played his role. He became a successful stock broker and now author and speaker. Food Banks and those that contribute to our cause will never know how we’ve impacted daily so many lives. The STFB is proud to have been the recipient of this prestigious award and thanks all those that help our cause.”
Ranchers for the Hungry, started in 2009 when Laredo cousins Robert Laurel and Oscar M. Laurel Jr. harvested 121 deer on the Zapata ranch, blossomed in 2011 under the guidance of Farias and Tijerina. An avid outdoorsman and resident artist at the food bank, Farias, persistently urged landowners to donate livestock, including deer, to assist in the STFB mission of feeding the hungry. “And the ranchers came through,” Farias beamed.
Close to 30 steer, 10 hogs and 22 lamb and goats were processed with the meat going to the Kids Café and Adopt-A-Family programs. Ranchers for the Hungry become Hunters for the Hungry during the deer season.
More than 100 deer were donated in 2011. Fifteen Kids Cafes in Webb County serve an after school meal to almost 1,000 children Monday through Friday and Adopt-A-Family distributes a bag of groceries per month to 500 families.
Tijerina helps transport livestock from area ranches to be processed. One of the top deer and livestock donors is the Joe B. Finley Family at the Callaghan Ranch. Others like J.J. Haynes, David Dodier and Ricky Munoz chipped in. Some of the deer is processed by students of the J. W.
Nixon High School meat processing class. The Laredo International Fair and Exposition (LIFE) is also huge source of livestock from the buyers. Additionally, young participants like Bonnie Tijerina and Caye Tijerina donate their prize winning money to help with processing.
“The bottom line is that Ranchers of the Hungry is helping feed people,” a spokesman for the food bank noted. “And hunger exists in our own backyard. The key ingredients to alleviate hunger is that we are blessed with a hard-working staff and committed board for a daunting mission. We must continue to bring that hunger awareness to our community.”