SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Food Bank is charged with feeding more than 58,000 people every week. Part of that challenge is finding adequate healthful food for families.

  • Mission San Juan settlers farmed the land 300 years ago
  • National Park Service allowed farming again in 2016
  • 50 acres of land used to feed hungry

Thanks to a partnership between the food bank and National Park Service, dozens of acres of land at Mission San Juan are being utilized to help feed people.

"Farms like the farm behind me (were) a new idea during the mission era," said park ranger Justine Hanrahan of the U.S. National Park Service. "This was the introduction of agriculture to this community and to South Texas."

It's an introduction that carries on still today. Since 2016, the U.S. National Park Service gave rights to farm 50 acres of land at the mission for the food bank to feed hungry families.

"We’ve got to restore the land," said the CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper. "There (are) nothing but weeds growing on that land, and really then going in to nurture it, and trying to do it in the most organic and good stewardship ways."

From cucumbers to squash, some of the crops being planted at the mission are the same as what was planted 300 years ago when Spanish settlers first arrived on the land. 

"It’s really a beautiful continuation of tradition to be farming this very same land today," said Hanrahan.

With water still flowing through the acequia, an irrigation ditch, from the San Antonio River, long-established farming practices give root to crops growing on the land.

"It’s kind of amazing to think about how when you get food from the San Antonio Food Bank, and you take a bite out of that produce, you are participating in an almost 300-year-old tradition here in San Antonio because some of that produce was grown at these very farms at the historic mission," said Hanrahan.

It's an annual harvest that yields thousands of pounds of fruits to feed hungry families and seniors in need.

"When you think about that and the implications of what the food bank does to provide food to struggling families who find healthy produce just out of their reach at the grocery store, Mission San Juan is getting it within reach of those families, and I tell you they love it," said Cooper.

You can also help play a vital role in the historic farmland. Volunteers are always needed to help harvest the crops, click here for more info.