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'There are always going to be folks in need': Food pantries still seeing need despite stimulus help

Posted at 6:59 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 20:03:12-04

The demand food pantries have seen over the past year has been unprecedented.

With people still bouncing back from challenges they’ve faced throughout the pandemic, and the winter blast, one food pantry in Killeen says they are starting to see people rebound.

For the past 3 years, Raymond Cockrell, Executive Director of the Food Care Center, has seen the need for food assistance steadily increase.

At the height of the pandemic, they were serving 200 families daily.

“We’ve distributed the most pounds of groceries to the largest number of individuals that we have ever during our 34-year history,” Cockrell said.

Cockrell expected that trend to increase especially with spring break, but that’s not the case.

“Between Tuesday Wednesday, and Thursday, we’ve served about 50 families a day only," he said. "This is one of the slowest days we've seen in quite some time.”

The decrease in families stopping by for help is a relief for volunteers like Marrissa Daniels, but she says she’ll be here either way.

“I see people come here Tuesday through Friday all the time. I just want to help feed the hungry so they don’t have to worry about anything else,” Daniels said.

Raymond believes the first round of stimulus payments has accounted for their drastic decrease in the need for their services, but many people like Pamala Huizar still need help.

“They have been a huge help they’ve just helped me a lot to feed my daughter myself and my other daughter," Huizar said.

Cockrell said eventually that stimulus money runs dry and they will sadly see some of those same faces again.

“I wish we could go out of business but there are always going to be folks in need. It will always be a need for folks to get groceries and will be here we’ve been filling that gap for 34 years and we’re going to continue to do that,” said Cockrell.

Cockrell said they are always looking for volunteers to lend a helping hand distributing food.

Of the 90,000 people that turned to the food care center in 2020 for help, Cockrell said about 20% were military families.

This includes active soldiers, veterans and retired service members.

Fort Hood officials say food insecurity is something they are always working to combat within the military. Although there are federal programs to help fill the gap, assistance from local non-profits is always appreciated.

“The Food Care Center, Operation Phantom Support, and the Armed Services YMCA, have all donated food to our soldiers to make sure that they have a healthy nutritious meal and don’t have to worry about feeding their families,” said Col. Myles Caggins III Corps Public Information Officer.

Col. Caggins says through operation People First, leadership has been able to be more connected with soldiers, allowing them to better identify soldiers who do need help.