Chicago Red Stars forward Kealia Ohai and Houston Texas defensive end J.J. Watt have donated $350,000 to the Houston Food Bank as the organization deals with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Houston Food Bank is the country’s largest food bank and Feeding America’s 2015 Food Bank of the Year, providing service to 18 counties in the state of Texas. As a result, the couple’s donation makes a dramatic difference — the food bank says $1 provides three meals, meaning Ohai and Watt’s $350,000 will provide 1,050,000 meals.
“This is going to enable us to acquire more food so that we can distribute it out to all the families that are affected,” Houston Food Bank chief development officer Amy Ragan told Pro Soccer USA hours after the couple’s donation was made public. “So many families are affected by this, certainly ones whose children rely on school breakfast and lunch. That will be significant, but then there are families that just struggle to put food on their tables as it is, so this gift is going to be extremely impactful.”
The Houston Food Bank has had to change operations as the pandemic continues, preparing different types of food boxes for people in different situations in partnership with the public health department. For students missing breakfast and lunch, the food bank has partnered with the Houston Independent School District for food distribution sites, and the organization has also set up new boxes specifically for people in quarantine or self-isolation in need of food resources.
“It’s impacted the number of people and the amount of people that we need to get out,” Ragan said. “We’re doing five distributions [Monday] to five different HISD campuses. The other day, it took three of our mobile trucks to distribute enough food, so certainly we’re seeing increased demand and more and more places.”
Ragan also said that the food bank will likely increase the number of campuses they will be providing food for, and that the organization could use some more volunteers to help package the boxes.
Ohai and Watt join Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman in their donation to the food bank, with Bregman donating 1,000 quarantine food boxes Saturday. Ragan said the organization saw an increase in donations Friday and Saturday but expects “that more donations will start coming in as the public learns of this.”
Ragan also shared her thanks to Ohai, formerly of the Houston Dash, and Watt for their backing of Houston, particularly after Watt’s relief fund raised enough money to rebuild more than 1,183 homes after Hurricane Harvey.
“The other thing I should say is just how grateful we are to JJ and Kealia,” Ragan said, “because this is a significant donation and they’re such great supporters of Houston when it needs support and help.”
Money, food and time can be donated to the Houston Food Bank here.
Can you spare some time? We had a great Quarantine Food Box build this morning, however, there is still a need for help as we continue our normal operations of providing assistance to our service area. Please join us by signing up today at https://t.co/796fC0qi4f pic.twitter.com/bjdMKvWyxA
— Houston Food Bank (@HoustonFoodBank) March 11, 2020