In April 1985, a group of Bryan/College Station residents calling themselves the Food Bank Steering Committee, aware of the communities’ needs, decided to work toward creating a local food bank. Like similar nonprofit corporations in about 20 Texas cities and hundreds of other cities in the United States, the food bank identified possible local sources of surplus food, salvaging food that would otherwise be destroyed from supermarkets and groceries. It would co-sponsor special canned good drives and events to make local citizens more aware of the hunger in their midst. The Brazos Food Bank, Inc. was the result of that meeting. It began collecting, sorting and distributing food to local organizations – nonprofit organizations and church-sponsored pantries – that, in turn, distribute the food to people in need.
The Brazos Food Bank, Inc. was incorporated in Texas on May 30, 1985. The Board of Directors consisted of most of the original Steering Committee members (i.e. Food Bank Steering Committee). By-laws were created and approved. A lease was signed for a warehouse located just outside the College Station city limits that was an abandoned restaurant. The warehouse was approximately 1600-1800 square feet and was leased rent-free. In its first year of existence, the Brazos Food Bank distributed 50,000 lbs. of food (approximately 2 semi-trucks full).
In the summer of 1985, the Brazos Food Bank, Inc. began approaching the Houston Food Bank for assistance with food. At this time, food was being donated by local grocers and distribution sites were asking the food bank to deliver product. During this time, the Board began planning for its first Fall Food Drive – Foodshare ‘85.
In early 1986, the Board of Directors recommended that an advisory group, made up of one member from each participating pantry, be formed with the purpose of communicating to the Board the needs and concerns of the pantries and to serve as a source of ideas for better service to the pantries and the community. Also during this time, the Board began developing policies and procedures for its agencies (requiring pantries to have a 501c3 or church letter).
In April of 1986, the Food Bank was approved for two part-time Senior Texas Employment Program (STEP) employees. First newsletter went out to the public in May of this year. First truck was purchased in May for $1,000 from Hoover’s (1976 Chevy ½ ton long bed pick-up). Motion was passed by the Board to become an affiliate of the Houston Food Bank in May 1986. On September of 1986, the Food Bank’s Secondary Distribution Organization (SDO) status with the Houston Food Bank was approved. In November of 1986, the Board started looking for new warehouse space (outgrew current).
In January 1987, the Brazos Food Bank, Inc. began receiving United Way funds. Also in January of ‘87, the first paid staff position (part-time) was added and filled, Director of Operations.
The Board located and leased a warehouse on 2818 for $1,000/month starting in spring of 1987. First proposals to the Cities’ Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for equipment (walk-in cooler/freezer) submitted in spring 1987.
The Brazos Food Bank, Inc. joined the Texas Association of Second Harvest Food Banks (TASHFB) in January 1989.
First Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds were granted to the Food Bank in late 1989.
Next Director of Operations started in May 1990.
The Brazos Food Bank’s first Feast of Caring fundraising was held in summer 1993.
The Brazos Food Bank’s first Food for Families food drive was held in December 1995.
First Executive Director was hired in 1999 (some time before this, a director was let go).
The current location of the Brazos Food Bank, Inc. – 1514 Shiloh Avenue, Bryan in the Brazos County Industrial Park was purchased in 2000. The warehouse is 17,500 square feet.
In 2001, the Food Bank acquired its first box truck in order to more efficiently pick up food donations, as well as delivery to food partner organizations.
In 2002, the Food Bank was granted a Future Impact Gift (FIG) from the Jr. League of Bryan/College Station. This 5-year gift of $250,000 helped the Food Bank pay off its current location in the Brazos County Industrial Park.
In 2002, shared maintenance fees (handling fees that the partner agencies pay) were implemented (cost per pounds of food). The Food Bank was one of the last in Texas to implement these fees and today is still the lowest.
Around 2003, the Food Bank became beneficiary of funds raised through AggiesCan and the TAMU Muslim Student Association’s Fast-a-Thon, both of which continue today.
In February of 2005, the Food Bank’s 2nd Executive Director came on board (previous Executive Director retired).
In May 2005, the food bank was burglarized, with all of its computers stolen. After the break-in and replacement of stolen items occurred, an alarm system was installed.
In August of 2005, the Brazos Valley was heavily impacted by both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Brazos Food Bank distributed 76,385 pounds of food to shelters for Rita and close to another 100,000 pounds through various channels for Katrina. The Brazos Food Bank had never responded to natural disaster before and did so efficiently and professionally, maintaining uninterrupted normal distribution of food simultaneously.
In the fall of 2005, the Brazos Food Bank embarked on its first official strategic planning process.
Also during the fall of 2005, the Brazos Food Bank partnered with Kemp Elementary to pilot a Children’s BackPack program in the Brazos Valley. Children’s BackPack Programs discreetly distribute ready to eat, low preparation foods in a backpack to children at school who are at risk of not having enough to eat over the weekend when they do not have access to school meals.
In 2006, The Frame Gallery held the first local Empty Bowls fundraiser benefiting the Brazos Food Bank. Potters donate bowls they have made for others to acquire for a donation. The event continues today.
In the spring of 2007, the Brazos Food Bank began a formal partnership with Meals on Wheels to supply supplemental bags of food for the most vulnerable Meals on Wheels seniors for additional nutrition on the weekends when meals are not able to be delivered.
In the summer of 2007, the Brazos Food Bank officially changed its name to the Brazos Valley Food Bank (BVFB) to better reflect the entire geographic area it serves (Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Madison, Robertson and Washington Counties). It is also updated its logo.
Also in the summer of 2007, BVFB acquired its first refrigerated truck.
In 2007, the BackPack program expanded to include two summer sites, which extended services year round.
In early 2008, the Brazos Valley Food Bank added Social Services Outreach to its services. The Social Services Outreach Coordinator assists eligible individuals and families apply for Health and Human Services (HHSC) safety net programs – SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), Medicaid, CHIP, etc.
In an effort to increase the amount of food being distributed in Madison County, the BVFB developed a mobile pantry program in the summer of 2008, bringing food to the Madison County Fairgrounds in a drive through style program.
Also in the summer of 2008, BVFB began its Retail Pick-Up Program with the College Station Sam’s Club, picking up frozen items (proteins and like items) on a regular basis. Kroger stores were added to this program in the summer of 2009. In April of 2010, Wal-Mart stores joined the program.
In 2010, the Houston Food Bank gave BVFB a second refrigerated truck, bringing its fleet to three. It also acquired two trailers from the Houston Food Bank that have been adapted to hold refrigeration and freezer temperatures for loan to our partner agencies interested in distributing more perishable food items.
In the summer of 2011, H-E-B joined BVFB’s Retail Pick-Up Program.
In late 2011, BVFB left the United Way of the Brazos Valley because of fundraising restrictions imposed with their contract. Also in 2011, BVFB added a second Mobile Food Pantry in Grimes County. In 2012, a Mobile Pantry was tried in Brazos County; however, since there are several other options for food pantries, this program was not as well attended as the rural programs and was therefore discontinued.
In 2013, School-Based Food Pantries were started at A&M Consolidated High School, Oakwood Intermediate School and Bryan ISD’s Homeless Program. The goal was to target food insecure youth in higher grades than elementary, where the BackPack operates. Also in 2013, 12th Can, TAMU’s first onsite food pantry was started.
Also in 2013, BVFB began a special partnership with the Houston Food Bank to bring trucks filled with produce to existing food pantry distribution sites in College Station and Hearne, increasing the access of fresh and fruits and vegetables for those clients. BVFB also began bringing produce on a regular basis to Calvert and the Bryan-based WIC program.
Now, BVFB’s BackPack Program, through its school and community-based partners, supplies over 850 children with a food-filled BackPack each week of the school year and over 200 children each week over the summer.
Today, BVFB is a 4-star charity on Charity Navigator with an annual operating budget of over $1.2 million dollars, has eleven full-time paid employees, partners with 36 different agencies that feed the hungry throughout the Brazos Valley and has a fleet of three trucks (two of which are refrigerated). BVFB benefits from over 14,000 volunteer hours annually, feeding over 60,000 unique individuals (of which over 56 percent are children and 8 percent are seniors, 65 years and older) with over 5.5 million pounds of food a year.
Where We Need to Be . . .
BVFB has outgrown its current location. Storage space for needed food is a serious issue. As more fresh foods become available through our networks, we have the need for additional refrigeration and freezer space. Efforts are underway by the Board of Directors to expand our warehouse, through a $4.125 million Capital Campaign called Because Hunger Won’t Wait. BVFB has over 56% of the funds committed. Building is projected to begin in the fall of 2015.