Cancel OK

Donors step up to replace nearly 2 million pounds of produce lost to ammonia leak at Houston Food Bank

houston food bank
(Photo: Houston Food Bank)

An ammonia leak led to the loss of nearly 2 million pounds of food, much of it fresh produce, intended for Houston Food Bank member agencies in the lead up to Thanksgiving.

On Nov. 12, “the ammonia-based refrigeration system that keeps our coolers and freezers operational malfunctioned, causing a leak in our coolers,” the food bank said. “Taking the highest level of precautions, we discarded all contaminated food, resulting in a loss of 62 truckloads of produce, dairy and other perishable items.”

Area produce companies and neighboring food banks have stepped in to help get produce back on the menu. The Montgomery County Food Bank lent trailers and shared produce donations, says John Kreger, director of sourcing and industry partnerships.

Houston-based Brothers Produce collaborated with Second Servings and Texas Harvest Co. to collect and distribute fresh produce to member agencies.

“Fighting hunger will always be an issue that will take a village to battle, and we are all here to help assist the Houston Food Bank in this pressing time of need,” Brothers Produce said in a statement.

San Antonio-based H-E-B and Cincinnati-based Kroger have pledged to help replenish the empty coolers as well.

“Losing 1.8 million pounds of refrigerated product is truly tragic,” said Lisa Helfman, director of H-E-B public affairs, Houston, in a statement. “It is our privilege to enlist H-E-B’s manpower and supplies to ensure the Houston Food Bank not only recovers but is able to continue fulfilling its mission of feeding families in need.”

Kroger, in addition to donating a truckload fresh produce and other perishables, is donating $50,000 to the food bank.

The food bank estimates the disposal, replacement and clean-up of affected areas will cost at least $3 million.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.