Food pantries experiencing increase in patrons, decrease in distributable food

More people are utilizing food pantry distribution resources which is causing availability for others to run out faster
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 6:25 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Nearly half a million people are affected by food insecurities across 21 Central Texas counties, and a little more than 100,00 - or 22 percent -are living in McLennan or Bell counties.

Food distributions aren’t uncommon in Central Texas but as the cost-of-living increases, the demand for these food distributions has increased as well.

From the moment it started, The Salvation Army’s drive-thru food distribution center in Killeen was a hit. Unfortunately, it ended a lot sooner than anticipated.

Normally, bringing around 100 boxes to the distributions, Bell County’s Salvation Army always has excess meals to bring back with them, but that wasn’t the case Tuesday morning.

“Today, it’s not even 10 o’clock yet and we have given out almost 100 of our food boxes, so we’re almost out,” said Capt. Dawn Beckham, with The Salvation Army in Bell County.

One act of service for many food pantries and non-profits is food distribution events.

You go, wait in line, and receive a portion of meals and ingredients to take home, at no cost.

More or less food can be received depending on household size, but some pantries are having to cut back on how much they give to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

“I know food costs have skyrocketed, and even if you have snap, sometimes that’s not enough. It doesn’t cover the needs of your family,” said Beckham.

Citing that 50 percent of the people they service in the Killeen area during distribution events are homeless, Beckham says their area of distribution is a food desert for its residents.

Plenty of gas stations and convenience stores, but no big chain grocery store within three miles to buy nutritious meals.

This only increases the demand for more food distributions.

“They’re taking the bus to the grocery store and having to carry all of their groceries back and it’s just difficult for them, so this is just a supplement for them,” said Beckham.

And it’s not just lower income families coming to the distribution more middle class families are showing up as well.

“We are now seeing people who are middle income people who have children. Husband wife both have cars. They’re making payments, house payments. It’s expensive. They’re coming here because they just can’t make it,” said Robert Gager, with The Shepherd’s Heart in Waco.

If the trend continues, distributions may have to limit the amount of food given per person, no longer relying on household size.

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