HOUSTON — The Houston Food Bank is getting worldwide attention after recent visits from President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“Interviews from literally every part of the world, and there have been more donations as a result,” Houston Food Bank CEO Brian Greene said.
Greene first got a call from the White House last Tuesday.
“There’d be an advance team the next day to check us out,” Greene said of the caller’s message. “I wasn’t even sure if it was a prank call.”
Three days later, Greene was giving a tour to the Bidens.
“It was really fun to watch how animated they both were with the volunteers, especially the president,” he said.
In between those lighthearted moments were serious discussions. Greene said he and Bidens covered the winter storm’s impact on low-income families and the general demand on all 200 food banks nationwide.
“We talked about it more as like, ‘We as a society, where are we trying to go, and how is it organizations like us can help?’” Greene recalled.
Greene also shared the need for the USDA to boost their deliveries of surplus food.
“We’re certainly not seeing the lines getting that much shorter,” he said.
Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, visited and volunteered six days prior to the President's visit. She helped raise more than $5 million for the Houston Food Bank and four other Texas groups.
Greene said the food bank is serving more than 80,000 families per week across 18 counties in Southeast Texas through a network of 1,500 community partners.
That includes West Houston Assistance Ministries (WHAM), which gets more than 85% of the items in its food pantry from Houston Food Bank.
“The need continues to grow,” said Verita Duncan, Food Pantry Manager at WHAM.
Duncan said she can see an impact from the previous week’s high-profile visitors to Houston Food Bank.
“We’ve had meetings already about it, and we can see in our order guide the difference,” Duncan said. “Instead of you having two or three lines, you’ve got a whole page of items that you can order from.”
People needing help or interested in volunteering at or donating to the Houston Food Bank can visit houstonfoodbank.org or call 713-223-3700.
Those looking for help or wanting to donate to or volunteer at WHAM can visit whamministries.org or call 713-780-2727.