Houston Food Bank turns 40 Tuesday

HOUSTON – Houston Food Bank turned 40 Tuesday.

In 1982, the dream of a small group of concerned citizens came to life and has since become the country’s largest food bank.

The food bank’s second executive director said the non-profit had a rough start, but the community was there to help grow it into what it is today.

Over the past 40 years, Houston Food Bank has distributed close to two billion pounds of food throughout 18 counties in southeast Texas.

David Williams served as the organization’s executive director from 1983 to 1994. In the year of its conception, Williams was a volunteer.

“Nineteen-eighty-two and 1983 were tough years, no sooner had the food bank opened, it got shut down by the City of Houston Health Department and we got kicked out of the Second Harvest National Food Bank network. Shortly after I started, we terminated our contract with the State of Texas,” Williams said.

Williams said they were turning away more people than they were serving. At the time, the non-profit was short on cash and picking up food in a school bus.

“I knew we needed to change that. If the food bank was going to grow, we needed to be viewed by the food industry as an organization serious about food quality and so we were able to purchase a refrigerated truck,” Williams said.

In the early 180s, Houston was booming. Williams said the perception of why there was a need for a food bank in Houston was a challenge.

Williams explained, “In 1983 and 1984, that oil boom begins to become an oil bust and now all of the sudden, people are now having to go to a church pantry who never thought in their wildest dreams would have to go someplace for food.”

Williams said media, specifically KPRC 2, played a fundamental role in Houston Food Bank’s growth.

“Channel 2 came up with an all-day spring food drive that was huge because of the amount of food distributed,” explained Williams. “To me, the most rewarding part is the ability to see people at their very best.”

Among Houstonians helping Houstonians, Susan Baker, the wife of James Baker, White House Chief of Staff under President Ronald Reagan, and First Lady Barbara Bush.

“To have the FLOTUS be able to talk about this organization, I can’t tell you how huge that was as terms of the credibility of our organization,” said Williams. “I guess I am most proud of is that the organization is actually doing better since I have been gone. I was always mindful, sometimes people think of great leaders that lead organizations and everything falls apart once they leave and it shows how good they were. I think the mark of a good leader is things are set up and their better success occurs after they are gone.”

The Houston Food Bank will kick off a year-long celebration today with a special volunteer day celebration.

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