- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The San Antonio Food Bank and the National Park Service are joining forces for a project that will provide up to about 500,000 pounds of fresh produce annually to feed the hungry.

The partnership will use historic water rights and farmland at Mission San Juan in San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

Longtime mission priest Jim Galvin told the San Antonio Express-News (https://bit.ly/1TNrCBh ) that he never imagined the food bank would partner with the national parks “to benefit so many people.”

“This mission is making a statement . to say, ‘We are here as an asset that can be used to benefit our community,’ ” food bank president and CEO Eric Cooper said. “It’s leveraging its resource to set food on the table for those in need.”

Under the agreement, the food bank will maintain a five-acre demonstration farm to grow corn and other historic crops, using labor-intensive irrigation canals. It also will use 45 acres to grow whatever fruits and vegetable it chooses, with the help of pumps and modern techniques.

Park superintendent Mardi Arce said the project caps a 35-year dream of restoring agricultural use of the farmland to benefit visitors. In the 1700s, the fields were maintained by indigenous mission inhabitants and irrigated with acequias, carefully engineered irrigation ditches that were hand-dug to carry water from the San Antonio River to the farmland. Spanish law required the excess water channeled back to the river.

The food bank, the largest hunger relief operation in South Texas that networks with 530 nonprofits and with programs in 16 counties, seemed to be an ideal partner, Arce said.

The food bank is seeking volunteers to help prep the land and help with planting and harvesting.

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Information from: San Antonio Express-News, https://www.mysanantonio.com

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