The concept of food banking started in the mid 1960s in Phoenix, Arizona, through the efforts of John van Engel, a retired businessman who began asking farmers to donate their surplus crop to a soup kitchen. Soon, the bounty surpassed the soup kitchen’s needs, and they began sharing with other agencies in Phoenix. Thus, food banking was born.
In the mid 1970s, Second Harvest was formed to help set up food banks throughout the United States. As years passed, food banks began to spring up in a number of states, including the southeast corner of Texas.
The Houston Food Bank first opened its doors on March 8, 1982, operating from a store-front in a shopping center in North Houston donated by Joan and Stanford Alexander of Weingarten Realty.
The Houston-Galveston Area Food Bank, Inc., the organization’s charter name, got off to a good start by reaching its goal of distributing 1,000,000 pounds of food during its first year of operation.
By the end of 1984, the Houston Food Bank became a member of Second Harvest Network and grew to be the largest food bank in Texas, handling more than 3,000,000 pounds of food.
The next several years brought tremendous physical growth and challenges.
In 1988 the Houston Food Bank moved into its first permanent home, a 73,000-sq-ft. warehouse on US 59 at Cavalcade, donated by the late Albert and Ethel Herzstein.
By 1994, the food bank celebrated the distribution of its 100,000,000th pound of food. Moving these mountains of food now required 4,000 volunteer hours a month.
In 1996 the Houston Food Bank distributed a record 20,000,000 pounds of product.
Today, the food bank feeds the hungry by distributing 35 million pounds of food each year to nearly 400 hunger relief agencies in 18 counties in southeast Texas.
The next few years hold great promise for growth, as the Houston Food Bank seeks to expand its service to the community through the strength of many partnerships with donors of funds, food and time.