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The Legacy of a Grocery Chain’s Support for Texas’s Rural Heartlands

Aside from Whataburger, no other company in Texas invokes loyalty quite like the grocery store chain H-E-B. Lately, the chain has been putting their long history of philanthropy to work in rural Texas.

Last year, H-E-B partnered with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for a series of short documentaries called Our Texas, Our Future. The series of shorts focused on the rural industries that keep the state fed, such as ranching and fishing. There were also deep dives into the negative effects on Texas wildlife from wind farms. At a time when the energy conversations are centered around the drain Texas’s large cities put on the grid, H-E-B helped refocus the rural parts of the state.

When the rural community of Uvalde was devastated by a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, H-E-B sprung into action. As part of last year’s Tournament of Champions, the chain gave Uvalde ISD a $1 million grant to help build a new elementary school. This is on top of a $10 million gift from founder Charles Butt and another $500,000 given for victim support.

The Texas panhandle is currently fighting the largest wildfire in the state’s history. Six different fires are raging throughout the region. On Saturday, Butt announced he would be gifting $1 million to victims of the blaze. Currently, over a million acres has been devastated.

In 2022, H-E-B partnered with the CATCH Global Foundation to bring health education to 30 rural schools across Texas. The whole child health program focused on movement, healthy eating, and emotional well-being.

“Studies show that children in rural areas are disproportionately affected by social factors that impact health,” said Duncan Van Dusen, Founder & CEO of CATCH Global Foundation in a press release at the time. “Working with schools to help children acquire the knowledge and skills they need to lead healthy lives is crucial to the future of all Texas communities.”

Speaking of health, H-E-B was vital in providing vaccinations to rural communities during the COVID pandemic. Many rural communities found themselves without access to the new COVID vaccines once they became widely available in 2021. Workers from H-E-B pharmacies in Cuero and Floresville were able to help rural hospital staff get inoculated despite the shortages.

The pandemic was also a time of widespread shortages in basic necessities. The pinch was felt particularly hard in rural areas where communities had far fewer resources to draw on.

In the early days of the pandemic, H-E-B donated $3 million specifically to help enable food delivery in rural areas. The initiative was called Texans Helping Texans, and expanded H-E-B’s existing food delivery network into more rural areas it hadn’t been available before.

The company worked with local Meals on Wheels programs in order to deliver food to the most vulnerable Texans such as the elderly and the immunocompromised. By expanding their network, they made it so that rural Texans had access to fresh food even when it was dangerous to venture toward the more urban areas H-E-B usually have stores. It’s one of the many reasons Texans, especially rural ones, maintain their fondness for the local H-E-B.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.

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