HARVEY SHORTAGE: H-E-B is low on buns before Labor Day, but here’s why you shouldn’t worry

There’s plenty of good and bad news coming out of Houston this week, and on this Friday before Labor Day, I have both to share.

First, the bad news: It looks like there’s a bit of a hamburger and hot dog bun shortage at H-E-B and, to a lesser extent, other retailers just before the holiday weekend. Unlike the run on gas in Austin on Friday, it doesn’t appear that this shortage is consumer-generated.

The shelves at H-E-B have, for the most part, stayed remarkably stocked in the face of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, but by Friday afternoon, hamburger and hot dog buns were running low. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

According to this story on NPR today, H-E-B had to shut down its Corpus Christi bread-making plant during the storm, leaving all the production at the Houston store. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, H-E-B had to switch over to the Corpus Christi store, which was up, but running on a generator.

But, here’s the good news: Amazingly, we haven’t had food shortages all week, despite transportation and production nightmares happening to our east and the many millions of pounds of food being diverted from the traditional food supply chain to feed evacuees, volunteers, first responders and everyone else involved in the storm recovery.

Because of H-E-B’s own recovery efforts, you might have a hard time getting buns there this weekend, but as of Friday afternoon, Sprouts, Randalls and Walmart all had those soft squishy rolls you might be hoping to buy for your Labor Day grilling get-together.

H-E-B hasn’t had both of its bread-making facilities open at the same time since Hurricane Harvey struck last week, but its Corpus Christi plant reopened on generator power a few days after the storm. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

While you’re spending time with friends and family, no matter what you’re eating, take a minute to celebrate the fact that — with the very notable exception of getting food into the areas hit hardest by the flooding and the devastation to crops in the rural areas of the state — the food supply chain seems to be holding up remarkably well a week after the state’s biggest natural disaster.


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HARVEY RELIEF: Citywide bake sale on Sept. 16 could be biggest yet for Austin Bakes

The citywide bake sale organization Austin Bakes has hosted numerous fundraising events since it launched after the tsunami in Japan in 2011, but its upcoming sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 16 is looking to be its largest yet.

Crema Bakery and Cafe has been a frequent host of Austin Bakes bake sales, which often take place after a major international, national or local disaster. The organization’s Harvey fundraiser will be on Sept. 16 at at least six sites around the Austin area. Contributed by Austin Bakes.

Organizers have already confirmed six sale sites — Stiles Switch, Crema Bakery & Cafe, Springdale Farm, Whole Foods Bee Caves, Jo’s Coffee downtown, Whole Foods 365 in Cedar Park — and more than 100 bakers have signed up to contribute baked goods. You can still sign up to participate, either as a baker or as a site leader/volunteer/organizer, through austinbakes.com. If you can’t be here on Sept. 16, you can support the organization’s fundraising efforts through buying merchandise, including shirts and tote bags.

All proceeds will go to Americares. Each bake sale site will also collect emergency supplies for local relief organizations.

You’ll find both sweet and savory foods at the Austin Bakes charity bake sales. These pickled green beans from Mum Foods were for sale at a 2015 fundraiser for the Nepal earthquake. Contributed by Austin Bakes.


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Reckless Kelly, Wrestle Circus donating proceeds of upcoming events to Hurricane Harvey relief

The Hurricane Harvey benefit events are rolling in, but two previously scheduled upcoming events are now donating all their proceeds to relief efforts.

The Reckless Kelly Celebrity Softball Jam is on Sept. 10 this year, and they’ve decided to turn it into a Hurricane Harvey fundraiser. Contributed by the Reckless Kelly Celebrity Softball Jam

The Reckless Kelly Celebrity Softball Jam has raised more than $350,000 in the past eight years for local youth sports and music charities, but this year, all the proceeds from the event on Sept. 10 will go to charities benefiting Hurricane Harvey victims, the organizers announced today. They are still picking the charities, but the Nolan Ryan Foundation will collect the proceeds from the event and then distribute it to areas where need is the highest. For details about the event, including the music lineup for the concert in the outfield or which local food writer or World Series winner will be playing in the game, go to rkcsj.org.

Colt Cabana, a wrestler based in Chicago, is a popular figure on the indie wrestling circuit. He wrestles often in Texas with promotions including Wrestle Circus. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Wrestle Circus, which is quickly becoming the biggest indie wrestling promotion in the state, announced a few days ago that their Sept. 9 show at the Travis County Expo Center would become a benefit for Hurricane Harvey relief, with all proceeds going to charities, including merch sales. You can buy tickets for the event and find out about the upcoming matches on wrestlecircus.com. Can’t attend the show? You can livestream the show for free and make a donation to the cause via Twitch.





Some good Harvey news: Houston ISD students can get 3 free meals per day this school year

The only good thing about a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy is the once-in-a-lifetime goodness of people pours out.

Students in Houston can apply to receive three free meals a day this school year. This is one of the lunches served in the Austin district. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Here’s some once-in-a-lifetime goodness that popped up today: In a state that is reluctant to support students who rely on free and reduced lunch, Houston ISD is now set to offer every student three free meals a day this school year. That’s millions of dollars of support for public schools that, in previous years, have been asking for more federal support for students in need in the form of free breakfast in the classroom, expanded reduced lunch and improved quality of ingredients.

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Each morning, AISD serves a free breakfast to thousands of students throughout the city. In Houston, every student will be eligible for three free meals a day for the coming school year after Hurricane Harvey. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Houston school district, which has more than 210,000 students, received approval on Wednesday from the Texas Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to let students apply for a waiver that could cover the cost of all three meals that a school serves each day. (Many schools offer a third meal for after-school programs, including tutoring and athletics.)

Austin ISD serves about 80,000 meals a day, but Houston’s largest school district has more than 210,000 students, all of whom can receive additional free meals this year as the city recovers from Hurricane Harvey. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Families still have to apply for this waiver (click here for an application), but this news means that tens of thousands of parents can focus on putting their homes and lives back together with one less thing to worry about.

The politics of school lunch have subsided in the face of disaster, but Houston is about to become the largest free school breakfast and lunch test case in the country. We’ll get to see what happens when students get fed during the day, no matter how much money their parents make.



Texans always love H-E-B, but especially after Hurricane Harvey

(Photo by Jay Janner/American-Statesman)

During this whirlwind of a storm that just won’t seem to stop, H-E-B has emerged at the forefront of the relief efforts, delivering literal tons of supplies to the battered cities along the coast and feeding thousands of evacuees at shelters around the state.

The social media love for this San Antonio-based grocer has been strong, with hundreds of people tweeting and sharing memes on Facebook about H-E-B coming to Texans’ rescue when they need them most.

Even CEO Charles Butt — the subject of this Dallas Morning News piece, “Why can’t we have more billionaires like Texas grocery magnate Charles Butt?” in July, just weeks before Harvey — has even been sitting in on the emergency preparedness meetings.

So far, they’ve donated more than $1 million in disaster relief in the forms of free meals, food bank donations and financial commitments.

Here’s a breakdown, by the numbers, of some of that assistance:

  • 72,240: Cases of water distributed so far (43 truckloads)
  • 56,000: Bags of ice distributed so far (15 truck loads)
  • 2: Helicopters used to fly in logistics experts to stranded warehouse facilities to help them reopen
  • 15: Shelters in Central Texas alone are receiving supplies from H-E-B
  • 2,500: Meals per hour that H-E-B can serve from its 45-foot-long mobile kitchens
  • 4,500: Meals Central Market served this week to shelters in Dallas
  • 100: H-E-B partners who volunteered at the San Antonio food bank last weekend

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If you want to find out the latest on H-E-B’s disaster efforts, as well as store closures and where to find assistance if you need it, follow @HEBprepared on Twitter or follow their Facebook page.

Here are some of our favorite H-E-B love tweets from the past few days:






Why Bastrop County farmers started a relief program to lend tools, labor after disasters like Hurricane Harvey

Amid all the bad news this week, I was relieved to hear that local farmers aren’t doing as badly as you might expect after such a major storm.

For one, they didn’t have most of their fall crops in the ground yet, so this storm will delay their season but not wipe it out completely. Second, the rain and winds weren’t as damaging as some other storms we’ve had in recent years, including one that caused $130,000 in destruction at Tecolote Farm or the one that nearly wiped out Dewberry Hills Farm.

Farm-1-1 is a nonprofit organization based in Cedar Creek that connects farmers throughout Central Texas who need a hand or equipment to fix something on their property. Founders Vivian and JoAnn Smotherman have been farming for a decade and know that it’s too much work for one person or even a couple to handle on their own. Contributed by Farm-1-1.

Farm-1-1 is a farmer assistance program based near Cedar Creek in Bastrop County that started two years ago after flooding left many area farmers with downed fences and wind-torn buildings. Directors (and farmers) Vivian and JoAnn Smotherman have since organized a network of farmers to help one another when emergencies like this strike.

Although they haven’t had any major calls in the past few days, they expect to hear from farmers later this week, after they’ve had a chance to survey the damage and make a priority list. “Farms suffer greatly during these kinds of tragedies,” Vivian Smotherman says. “When you’re talking about a herd of cattle or goats and losing your fencing or your entire crops got flooded, this can be just as devastating.”

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When Farm-1-1 gets a call from a rural landowner who could use a hand, they activate their network to find farmers with equipment and labor to lend. “New farmers sink way too much money into equipment,” she says. “We try to catch people before they get so far into debt. You don’t have to go buy a tiller or a brushhog or a post-hole digger that you’ll use once. Call us up and we’ll get one over to you. Pooling equipment reduces costs throughout the community.”

On Tuesday morning, Farm-1-1 put out a call on Facebook for farmers who might need a hand after the recent Hurricane Harvey storms.

The Smothermans have been farming for about 10 years, and the only evidence of the weekend’s storms are a bunch of muddy pigs that are happy for the wet earth. In the two years since they started Farm-1-1, they’ve helped 40 to 50 farms in some way or another, and they are always accepting donations to help run and grow the program. They even run a farmer thrift store to help people sell and buy equipment.

If you want to learn more about Farm-1-1 or to inquire about getting assistance or how you can help lend a hand, go to farm-1-1.org.

Other local farmer assistance programs include Texas Farmers Market’s emergency relief fund, and the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has a comprehensive list of other disaster funds for farmers and ranchers.

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Royal Fig, GelPro, Springdale Farm rally donation efforts for Hurricane Harvey victims

The food community is turning out in droves to help our friends in Houston and along the coast after Hurricane Harvey. Matthew Odam has compiled a great list of restaurants and bars that are raising money, and here are a few more food-related fundraisers and donation sites.

Royal Fig Catering loaded up a truck and sent it to Victoria on Monday. They’ll be doing the same for Houston later this week. Contributed by Royal Fig.
  • Whole Foods Market and Amazon are matching $1 million in donations to the Red Cross via Amazon’s online giving page. The Austin-area Whole Foods stores will be collecting for the Red Cross via donations at the registers.
  • H-E-B continues to take donations at its registers for hurricane relief.
  • Royal Fig Catering, one of Austin’s biggest catering companies, devised a whirlwind relief effort Sunday night to raise money to purchase supplies needed to cook hot meals for as many coastal residents as they could. Several of their vendors also donated food, which enabled the company to head to Victoria on Monday. Another trip to cook meals for a Houston children’s hospital is in the works, according to owner Kristin Stacy.
  • Lick Honest Ice Creams is donating 100 percent of proceeds from Texas Sheet Cake pints sold at all of their shops to the American Red Cross through the end of September.
  • Austin Community College’s culinary department is kicking off the new semester by cooking food for one of the local shelters.
  • Farmhouse Delivery is donating meals to relief shelters and collecting money for farmers who need a hand.
  • GelPro is donating 100 percent of sales of its Texas mat to relief efforts.
  • Springdale Farm is donating 100 percent of proceeds from Wednesday’s farm stand, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 755 Springdale Road, to Austin Disaster Relief Network. You can also drop-off donations for ADRN at the farm stand until noon.
  • SugarMama’s Bakeshop is hosting a drive for baby formula and pet food today (Tuesday).
  • Austin Bakes has set up an Austin Bakes for Harvey citywide bake sale for Sept. 16. Bakers can sign up now to provide baked goods and volunteer for the sale, which will raise money for Americares.
Last fall, Austin Bakes raised more than $2,000 for relief efforts in Haiti. The citywide bake sale will return on Sept. 16 to raise money for Hurricane Harvey victims. Contributed by Austin Bakes.

RELATED: Farmers report soggy fields, loose pigs after Hurricane Harvey storms

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Complete Hurricane Harvey coverage from the Austin American-Statesman

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Farmers report soggy fields, loose pigs after Hurricane Harvey storms

The swollen Colorado River might be lined by farms and ranches, but most farms in the Austin area escaped great damage from Hurricane Harvey over the weekend.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling the effects, however.

The floodwaters near Green Gate Farms receded before they did any permanent damage to the crops or infrastructure on the properties in East Austin and farther east in Bastrop County. Contributed by Green Gate Farms

Johnson’s Backyard Garden lost $25,000 in farmers market sales over the week because the markets in Austin and Houston were closed, owner Brenton Johnson says, and they also couldn’t deliver CSA boxes to customers in those cities. The good news is that their fields didn’t flood as badly as they have in previous storms, and they didn’t suffer any infrastructure damage due to high winds, he said.

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Like many farms in the area, Johnson’s staff are in the middle of cleaning out the summer crops and planting the fall ones, and after seeing the weather forecast last week, Johnson delayed putting fall plants in the ground. Now they’ll have to wait a few weeks to plant so the fields can dry, putting them about three weeks behind schedule, he says.

“We are right in the beginning of a major planting season, so our greenhouses are busting at the seams,” Johnson says. “We have to wait another week for the fields to dry out, so we’re concerned about some of the plants getting too old and won’t be top quality, but it could have been worse.”

High winds and rain caused this roof at Green Gate Farms to partially collapse over the weekend. Contributed by Green Gate Farms


At Green Gate Farms, high winds caused the roof on a shed to nearly collapse, and one of the big pigs escaped through a broken fence. Farmer Skip Connett said that the domino effect will hurt them the most.

“For instance, we were racing to get a hoop house completed at our Bastrop farm so we could get reimbursed by Natural Resources Conservation Service. That’s not likely to happen on time, which means bills won’t get paid. The biggest concern, though is losing planting time for our fall season. Now that we can’t plant and fields must be repaired, it’s likely the season will be delayed.”

She said the best way to help would be for customers to sign up for their fall CSA now so that they’ll have the money to make repairs around the farm before the season starts.

Boggy Creek Farm didn’t suffer any major losses from the weekend’s Hurricane Harvey storms. The owners even opened their farm stand on Saturday, where 39 customers came by. Contributed by Boggy Creek Farm


Sue Beckwith, executive director of Texas Center for Local Food, said farmers who planted before the rain might have lost some crops, but the damage locally wasn’t nearly as bad as had been expected.

The organization is setting up a relief fund for farmers, especially those closer to Houston, who come forward later this week with emergency needs. “The alluvial soil along the Colorado River is so good for growing, but if you’re half a mile from the river bank, most years, you’re going to be fine,” she says. “For some farmers, this isn’t one of them.”

Here are some reports from other local farms:

  • Boggy Creek Farm in East Austin opened its farm stand amid the rain on Saturday morning, and Carol Ann Sayle reported that 39 customers came by. Even though their farm is near Boggy Creek, their fields did not flood. Some of the tarps flew off, but the plans underneath were fine, for the most part.
  • Max Elliott at Urban Roots said that even though they got more than 10 inches of rain over several days and lost a few trees, they didn’t have any major damage to buildings or equipment.
  • Springdale Farm is donating 100 percent of proceeds from Wednesday’s farm stand, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 755 Springdale Road, to Austin Disaster Relief Network. You can also drop-off donations for ADRN at the farm stand until noon.
  • Texas Farmers Market has an emergency relief fund that they use to help local growers facing medical- and weather-related emergencies. You can click here to donate.

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