Hunger is the Symptom; Poverty is the Disease

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

How do we meet the increased need COVID-19 is causing in our country? San Antonio Food Bank President and CEO Eric Cooper and Hotel Emma chef and culinary director John Brand talk to Debbie and Billy Shore about the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their city. Billy Shore asks Cooper about the now iconic image of a massive line of cars outside the San Antonio Food Bank in April. “I saw the line and I just panicked. I thought we were going to run out of food,” says Cooper. However, they were able to meet the need that day. “I waited for the last car to be served. I went to apologize… but I was greeted with this resiliency and gratitude that was amazing,” he shares.

“The biggest thing we’ve all learned is compassion – compassion for each other,” observes Brand, who used his restaurant to feed first-responders during the first months of the pandemic. “Where a lot of the world has retreated, we are able to connect on a deeper level with food,” he explains. The guests discuss the larger problem of hunger in America. “We never believed that we were going to solve hunger with a canned good. Hunger is a symptom of poverty and people in poverty have lots of barriers. It can’t be fish or teaching how to fish, it has to be both,” says Cooper.

Listen to this important conversation with two San Antonio anti-hunger crusaders bearing witness to the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their community.

Resources and Mentions:

Eric Cooper

Eric Cooper

President and CEO
Eric Cooper is the President and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, the largest hunger-relief organization in Southwest Texas. Through a network of more than 580 nonprofit agencies and a myriad of distribution programs, the San Antonio Food Bank provides more than 74 million pounds of food and grocery items to needy Texans in a 16-county service area. In 2001, the San Antonio Food Bank selected Cooper to become the youngest Executive Director in the history of the organization. During his 20-year tenure, the San Antonio Food Bank has grown to more than 240 employees, increased food distribution from 10 million pounds to more than 74 million pounds last year, increased the number and impact of its programs, and was awarded Food Bank of the Year in 2007 by Feeding America, the national network of 200+ Food Banks. Cooper was also recognized as the Executive Director of the Year in 2011 by Feeding America.
John Brand

John Brand

Chef and Culinary Director
John Brand is chef and culinary director of Hotel Emma in San Antonio, Texas. He is a true representative of that uniquely American class of chef – self-taught, working his way up from teenaged dishwasher to nationally-recognized chef. Brand oversees three epicurean properties at Hotel Emma that include Supper, the hotel restaurant; Larder, the in-house market and cafe; and the Sternewirth, the Hotel Emma bar. Brand previously worked at several top-rated fine dining restaurants across the country including The Little Nell in Aspen, Keswick Hall in Charlottesville, and the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. He was named to Esquire’s “Top 20 Best New Restaurants”. Brand has been invited to showcase his culinary skills at the James Beard House, Aspen Food and Wine Festival, the French Culinary Institute, Condé Nast headquarters, and Saveur Magazine, to name a few. He was also tapped by the Culinary Institute of America to develop four culinary master programs for executive chefs.
Hotel Emma

Hotel Emma

Hotel Emma is the flagship of the Pearl culinary community. Infused with the flavor of San Antonio’s cultures and history, Hotel Emma is leading a culinary revolution in San Antonio, Texas. It’s focus on food and service is at the heart of everything they do. Hotel Emma’s properties include Supper, the hotel restaurant; Larder, the in-house market and cafe; and the Sternewirth, the Hotel Emma bar.  
San Antonio Food Bank

San Antonio Food Bank

San Antonio Food Bank fights hunger in Southwest Texas through food distribution programs, education, and advocacy. Through a network of more than 580 nonprofit agencies and a myriad of distribution programs, the San Antonio Food Bank provides more than 74 million pounds of food and grocery items to needy Texans in a 16-county service area. Founded in 1980, The San Antonio Food Bank has quickly grown to serve 58,000 individuals a week in one of the largest service areas in Texas. Their focus is for clients to have food for today, but to also have the resources to be self-sufficient in the future.