Public pantry providing for the people

San Antonio community pantries provide food for less-fortunate neighbors.

Malaki Lingg and Riley Carroll

Food insecurity is an ever-increasing issue within the United States. Approximately 10.5% of U.S. households were food insecure in 2020, 22.5% of all children in Texas faced food insecurity at some point and one in four children in Bexar County are unsure of when they are having their next meal. 

To combat this growing issue, good samaritans across San Antonio have opened nearly a dozen community food pantries. These pantries operate 24/7 by maintaining outdoor storage for goods where locals can donate items or take products as needed. 

“Initially, [our goal] was to provide food to the community,” the Westside Community Pantry owner, Sylvia Mendosa, explained. “I think another goal that has emerged since starting the pantry — aside from food access — is also this idea of mutual aid [and] community care. The [Westside] community pantry started right before the Texas freeze and in the midst of the pandemic and both of these events highlighted not [only] failed leadership at the state and national level, but the necessity and the history of communities coming together to take care of each other and provide each other with basic needs and care. It has been really beautiful and radical to see the pantry become its own living entity and to see the community take ownership of it. I think a goal for me now is to be connected to the people and places that create opportunities to engage in community care.”

The San Antonio pantry network, started by @jovitapantryandfridge on Instagram, has grown to boast over 10 pantries throughout the city.

 “I know creating food access is a big part of the pantry network, which was started by @jovitapantryandfridge,” Mendoza mentioned. “They operate [on] anarchist and socialist principles and … have fundraised to help purchase and set up volunteers with a pantry and fridge to operate.”

Drawing inspiration from the @jovitapantryandfridge folks, the San Antonio native running the Westside Pantry enjoys giving back to their community.

 “I [was] born and raised in San [Antonio],” Mendoza remarked. “Being a part of this network is a way to care for the community I love and call home and also honor the legacy of radical color collectives who have engaged in community care and mutual aid for generations. And I get to be connected to other folks who engage in community care as well.”

The Westside Community Pantry’s flexible hours allow for working individuals to come and go at their leisure, whenever they need access.

 “I know it is a daily occurrence and weekends see the most traffic, and I also hear folks late at night when they’re getting off [of] work or when it’s cooler to travel on foot to see what’s available at the pantry,” Mendoza added.

On top of the generous donors who drop off canned goods and non-perishables, numerous volunteers have hosted supply drives in support of the pantry.

 “At the [Westside] pantry, I accept pantry food items as well as produce and drinks that can be placed in the fridge,” Mendoza said. “Many folks also drop off clean clothing, shoes, toiletries [and] unhoused neighbor kits that have shampoo, toothpaste, body wipes, bandaids and snacks. For the Christmas toy drive, the organizer @maricreative managed to collect over 100 donations of toys and gave them all out in one afternoon.”  

The Pantry Network across San Antonio is growing exponentially, encouraging owners to consistently fundraise and participate in the community.

“The @freelittlepantrysa usually offers their time and truck to make fridge and pantry deliveries,” Mendoza explained. “The [@the_harlandale_sunshine_pantry] regularly hosts fun community events and giveaways on the Southside. The [@jovitapantryandfridge] pantry folks consistently fundraise not only for new pantries but to also help the existing ones out when we experience theft. There is going to be a new pantry soon by a regular donator who actually has their own farm as well and has donated fresh produce to the pantries before.”

More than ever, the Westside community pantry owner expressed the importance of lending a helping hand to neighbors whenever possible.

“In thinking about the Texas grid, forced poverty on our communities, we are going to need to continue to rely on each other rather than solely wait on leadership to care or change policy,” Mendoza concluded.

The Westside Community Pantry is located at 3203 W Houston St, San Antonio, TX 78207. To learn more about the Westside Community Pantry or donate, please refer to the Westside Community Pantries resources guide or the pantries listed in the San Antonio Community Resource Directory.