By Ciarra Adams
La Prensa de San Antonio
For the third year in a row, San Antonio and San Antonio-headquartered H-E-B are serving host to a conference among international food leaders from 25 nations.
Their purpose in meeting is to discuss strategies of abating undernourishment and fighting poverty in the midst of a global economic crisis.
Nomakula Mrubata, who helped launch the first Global Foodbanking Network food bank in her home nation of South Africa, speaks to a crowd of food leaders during an international summit held at H-E-B headquarters in San Antonio.
(Photo, Ciarra Adams)
The visiting delegates are food bank professionals representing countries that include India, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico to name a few.
Nearly one billion people in the world are on the brink of going hungry, reports the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), the conference’s directing organization.
“The need is greater than ever. Economic times are very difficult around the world and food prices in particular have gone up substantially over the last couple of years,” said David Prendergast, president of Global Foodbanking Network. “The work that all of these representatives from around the globe are doing is especially important because we’re in a race, in a battle against a very difficult challenge.”
In the course of five days of the summit, delegates from each represented nation are scheduled to discuss methods and various elements of running a food bank operation. Topics range from types of food sources to working with partners in the community.
“What we are here to do this week is to help educate, to inspire, to share food banking, the ideas the philosophies, the practices from various countries,” explained Prendergast. “The best thing that goes on this week is the sharing between countries and between people from different countries. We’re looking forward to that experience.”
Established in 2006, GFN represents a conglomeration of food banking networks with a collective mission of alleviating world hunger. GFN has operations in areas of the world that account for the most consistently undernourished populations.
“When people look at an issue like global hunger they think ‘that’s sad, that’s terrible…but it’s out of my hands’ and that’s the attitude most have. But what we as a small organization are able to make a difference by stopping so much food from going to waste,” stated GFN’s Prendergast. “What we’re able to do comes in small, but sure steps.”
One of GFN’s most recent accomplishments has been working to launch the first food bank in the nation of South Africa, a task that was completed March 2.
“It is with great pleasure to announce the first food bank is being launched in South Africa today in Cape Town,” reported Nomakula Mrubata, a food bank professional from South Africa. “We are using this as a pilot foodbank so that we can replicate it to other regions in South Africa.”
Mrubata said that the biggest challenge they faced in starting the bank was reaching out to rural areas, where 60 percent of poverty and hunger in South Africa come from. These are areas that in some instances lack resources and a viable infrastructure.
“Our aim is to try to get people to take control of their own lives, we have managed to try and get communities to be involved in establishment of the food bank.
They’re involved, they’re participating,” said Mrubata.” At the end of the day if you are trying to do anything in South Africa for the people, it must be done for the people with the people.”
It is a task that the organization finds increasingly difficult with the rise in the price of food commodities, which remain above historical levels. Recent reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture depict that the global price of grains and vegetable oils have climbed to more than 60 percent the average of only two years ago.
The United Nations estimates that about 115 million additional people are now undernourished than were undernourished two years ago.
The mission of fighting hunger and poverty is also something that hits close to home with the San Antonio Food Bank, which in addition to H-E-B, is one of GFN’s local partners.
“I feel fortunate to welcome people from different countries who share our desire to feed our hungry neighbors. San Antonio Food Bank is proud to collaborate with H-E-B and GFN on this exciting opportunity to listen, learn and make progress against the scourge of hunger,” said Eric Cooper, President of the San Antonio Food Bank.
The San Antonio Food Bank houses an average of 30 million pounds of food, serving more than 40,000 families in the San Antonio area.