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Texas Supermarket Tackles Food Insecurity And Supports Local Restaurants

Ready-made meals from Houston-based Underbelly Hospitality's restaurants that are being sold at H-E-B (Photo by Julie Soefer).

Texas’ popular H-E-B supermarket chain is helping those in need and supporting local restaurants amid the coronavirus pandemic. The initiatives come at a time when food banks are in high demand and local restaurants across the state struggle to keep business alive. The San Antonio-based grocer recently announced its Summer of Giving program–a pledge to donate to Feeding America’s Feeding Texas food bank system each time a customer’s transaction includes at least one H-E-B Brand product. H-E-B says it will donate up to $2 million to Feeding Texas by the time the program ends on September 8.

Feeding America is the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization with more than 200 locations, and its Feeding Texas operation has 21 food banks that serve the state’s 254 counties. “Our network of food banks are serving almost 400,000 families a week now—many of whom have never needed help from a food bank before,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas, to The Business Download. “Hunger has more than doubled in Texas as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with over one-in-four families struggling to afford food. H-E-B’s generous gift of up to $2 million will help food banks across the state continue to meet the need in our communities during this crisis.” 

An H-E-B display featuring ready-made meals from San Antonio-based Max & Louie’s.

H-E-B’s efforts to fight hunger span beyond its current initiative. The grocer’s Hunger Relief Program raises awareness and works all year to combat hunger in Texas and Mexico, donating 32 million pounds of food to food banks in 2019 and over 1 billion pounds since the program’s founding in 1982, according to the grocer. “The H-E-B Summer of Giving initiative is another way we want to show our continued commitment to support food banks and other organizations working to help provide nutritious food to our most vulnerable communities,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Diversity and Environmental Affairs vice president of public affairs. 

H-E-B is also providing much-needed relief to local restaurants through its ongoing ready-made meals initiative. The supermarket chain revealed in April that it would be partnering with local restaurants to sell chef-prepared meals in stores, with 100 percent of proceeds from sales going back to the restaurants. As of now, H-E-B has partnered with restaurants in San Antonio, Austin, and Houston.

San Antonio-based Max & Louie’s New York Diner, a Jewish diner and deli, was the first to partner with H-E-B for the initiative. The restaurant’s owner, Drew Glick, told The Business Download that the partnership has been a “life-saver.” “When the spike hit, we had a significant drop in business, but H-E-B kept us going,” said Glick. The restaurateur said that the H-E-B partnership has allowed him to bring back close to 20 employees and that Max & Louie’s currently delivers seven days a week to seven different H-E-B locations. Glick also credits Fort Worth-based food and beverage distributor Ben E. Keith Company for providing the restaurant with a refrigerated trailer and driver to help get the chef-prepared meals to H-E-B stores. “I couldn’t have done this without them, either,” Glick said. 

Rosario’s, a San Antonio-based Mexican restaurant, is another establishment that has benefited from H-E-B’s program. The restaurant’s owner, Lisa Wong, told The Business Download it was a “blessing” to be selected as a partner. Wong said that the partnership with H-E-B has helped her “keep many employees working and my management staff who have been with me from the beginning employed. They carved out shelf space in their stores they could use to sell their own brands to give me the opportunity to sell and promote my brand and others across Texas. Their generosity is immeasurable and more than I could have ever imagined.”

Ready-made meals from San Antonio-based Rosario’s on display at H-E-B.

Underbelly Hospitality, which owns a mix of restaurants in the Houston area, also credits H-E-B’s program with helping to revitalize its business. “Our relationship with H-E-B has been a lifeline for us these past few months,” said Chris Shepherd, chef/owner of Underbelly Hospitality to The Business Download. Underbelly currently delivers ready-made meals to 16 H-E-B stores in the Houston area. “This opportunity allowed us to keep more of our staff paid and working, and I truly can’t thank H-E-B enough. They’ve shown themselves to be leaders in a crisis time and again, and this is just one more example.”

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