Central Texans are still hurting, food bank official says
One in 5 here is food insecure
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The Central Texas Food Bank handed out boxes of food Thursday morning at Waco ISD stadium, and there will be another drive-thru on Aug. 15 at Temple College to help the tens of thousands of area residents struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Food bank officials say McLennan and Bell counties are facing increasing food insecurity because of the pandemic.
About 20 percent of families in the two counties are considered food insecure, meaning they don’t have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food, food bank officials said.
Food has been distributed for a while through smaller mobile drive-thru events to 150 to 300 people at a time, but Derrick Chubbs, president and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank, says those weren’t large enough to accommodate all of the people in need.
“We saw an excess of a 200% increase in new clients with people coming to us for the first time,” Chubbs said.
The drive-thru distributions Thursday and next week are much larger than the others hosted by the food bank.
Chubbs said anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 people come out for these drives, and more than 40 of them have been held around central Texas since the pandemic started.
The drives on Thursday in Waco and on Saturday in Temple are some of the first the food bank is hosting since federal unemployment benefits expired.
“With unemployment benefits running out, not only do we expect the numbers to surge, we expect them to stay there, for clearly the balance of this calendar year,” Chubbs said.
“And we’re planning well into next year to be doing exactly the same thing.”
Chubbs said the food bank saw a bit of a drop off in numbers earlier this year, but as businesses started to close down or reduce capacity again as the virus surged in May and June, so did the numbers.
He said the food bank plans to keep holding drives, but said they do put a strain on food bank employees and resources.
“In certain cases, we’re spending ten times the amount of money that we were spending pre-COVID, to make sure that we have food, and it needs to be the right food,” Chubbs said.
He added he expects people to continue coming to the drives at this level through the holiday season.
Chubbs said even if someone waved a magic wand and the pandemic was over, he would still expect to see people coming for months.
“We saw this in 2019 with the government shutdown. That only lasted 45 days, but we had clients in need of our services for three to four months after that just to make up for the ground that they had lost during that very brief period,” Chubbs said.
“Imagine what this is going to be like for months.”
Since the food bank has limited resources, it’s asking only the people who are the most food insecure to come out to the drive.
Residents who do turn out need to have spaced cleared in the trunks of their vehicles so the volunteers are able to load the food without contact.
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