H-E-B president discusses poverty, hunger
Supplying healthy food and raising awareness for families in need are missions that H-E-B president Scott McClelland shares with Cypress Assistance Ministries.
CAM invited McClelland to be the guest speaker during the organization’s annual Angel Breakfast fundraiser on April 30.
CAM, a nonprofit helping families in need with food and financial assistance, plans to use funds from the breakfast to purchase fixtures, furniture and equipment for their new CAM building, which is expected to open early next year, according to a press release.
Martha Burnes, executive director of CAM, said the focus of the breakfast would be the organization’s food pantry. The pantry uses a client shop model that allows clients to pick the groceries they would like.
CAM fed 10,206 families and gifted $212,099 to 540 families in 2018 according to the CAM website. CAM needs a larger building with more room to grow and serve their clients’ needs in one location, Burnes said.
“If you go in the CAM main building, you’re likely to see cases of toilet paper under the desks because that’s the only place we have to put it,” Burnes said. “I hate it that our clients have to walk across the street from client services to the food pantry. And they do that because they need the help.”
During his presentation, McClelland showed Angel Breakfast guests a picture of the inside of a refrigerator for a low-income household with several family members. McClelland said H-E-B representatives visit the homes of lower-income families to better understand their needs. He also makes store leaders participate in an exercise where they survive on $52 for one week, which is the standard food stamp allocation for a family of four, he said.
H-E-B’s discount grocery stores, called Joe V’s Smart Shops, are geared toward low-income families. Joe V’s aims to help people afford food by offering less brand variety, but at lower prices.
“The whole idea here is to really help folks’ food dollars go a long way so that they then have more disposable income,” McClelland said. “When I say disposable income, it’s so (they) can pay the rent or take (their) family to the doctor or buy new clothes for (their) kids.”
McClelland wanted the audience to understand that the homeless community is not the only population relying on organizations like CAM and the Houston Food Bank, an H-E-B partner. According to the Houston Food Bank, 97% of their clients have housing, two-thirds have at least one adult working in their home, and 20% are senior citizens.
“This is one of the issues we face as a state,” he said. “We’re so proud of our state and it’s such a great state. But we have a problem.”
McClelland cited a U.S. Census study that found 40% of Houston households earn less than $37,000. He said Houston has an overwhelming population of people living in poverty, which he blames on the 2008 recession when the debt bubble burst.
“As average wages flattened, what people did to increase their income … they took those little plastic things out of their wallet,” McClelland said. “It also says that there’s a good chance more people will go onto government subsidy because the types of jobs we’re going to have won’t be good-paying jobs which means more places will be relying on places on CAM.”
McClelland gave an update on H-E-B including their ranking as the number three eCommerce company to work for, determined by Washington Post. New H-E-B stores opened in Spring, Fulshear and Bellaire in 2018. Currently, H-E-B has 402 stores in Texas and plans to open more in the coming years.
In 2018, H-E-B purchased on-demand food delivery company Favor, allowing the chain to deliver groceries and have customers pick them up at the store. McClelland said this strategy helps H-E-B stay current in the delivery-based trend powered by Amazon.
McClelland said the trend may deter some of H-E-B’s competitors from opening new physical locations.
“We see their trepidation as an opportunity because we don’t think people are going to stop going to the brick and mortar stores if you keep them interesting,” McClelland said.