McAllen VA and Food Bank partner to fight hunger

More than 1,000 received food assistance at four events


It was bumper-to-bumper traffic in the parking lot. About 280 vehicles formed a line around the block to drop off boxes and produce pallets.

The Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) partnered with VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB) to fight hunger. They hosted a free produce distribution drive-thru on August 1, 2019, at the McAllen VA Outpatient Clinic (MOPC).

“We are delighted to partner with the VA to host this event and fight hunger among those who have served our great nation,” said Ruby Martinez, communications manager for RGV.

Retail partnership manager Yara Doyle confirmed the Veteran status of would-be recipients and kept track of the number of people receiving donations. Fellow Food Bank staff members and VA volunteers worked nonstop during the three-hour event.

The group put together donation packs that weighed more than 50 pounds, featuring an assortment of fruits and vegetables like papayas, oranges, carrots, grapes, and more.

Fourth annual event feeds over 275 military families

The drive-thru marked the fourth time an event of this kind has taken place at the McAllen VA Outpatient Clinic. The food bank reported an overall total of 279 families (713 adults and 376 children from military families) received more than 12,100 pounds of nutritious fruits and vegetables.

“This was the first time in the history of doing this type of event with the VA that we surpassed the mark of 1,000 recipients for the day,” said Doyle.

Yara Doyle, Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, at the Free Produce Distribution Drive-thru

Homero S. Martinez III, VCB director: “This terrific partnership with the Food Bank Rio Grande Valley not only helps feed Veterans and their families, but it also encourages them to make healthier choices, whenever possible, within their individual diets.

“Our healthcare system does an excellent job in educating Veterans and families about the nutritional benefits of whole, natural foods, to include fruits and vegetables. We are grateful for the opportunity to be able to share in the harvest and help promote healthier lives for our Veterans and their families.”

Police and volunteers helped make it happen

“It is thanks to partnerships with wonderful organizations like the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley that we are able to help our Veterans receive the food assistance they and their families may need,” said Patrick Hawkins, VA Voluntary Service specialist at the McAllen VA clinic who helped coordinate the event.

“Everyone, the folks from the food bank, our police officers and volunteers all helped make this event a great success. And they did not let the hot triple-digit temperature slow them down.”


Luis Loza Gutierrez

Luis H. Loza Gutierrez joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in October of 2017 and serves as a public affairs specialist for VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System more commonly referred to as VCB.

In addition to winning multiple awards as a writer, editor, photographer, illustrator and graphic artist during his more than 10 years in the U.S. Air Force as a public affairs specialist and photojournalist, L.G. (as he was called by his fellow Airmen) also served as a member for the Grand Forks Air Force Base Honor Guard in North Dakota.

He volunteered to deploy out of cycle twice in a period of less than 18 months, the second of which included a six-month tour as a member of the public affairs team at United States Force-Iraq headquarters at Camp Victory in Baghdad.

The former non-commissioned officer returned home to the Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas in November of 2015, and feels enthusiastic and honored to continue to serve his fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms as a member of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.