Food pantries prepare for greater need during holiday season

Posted at 8:00 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 21:00:23-05

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 2.5 million households in Texas didn't always have enough food to eat in November, and as the pandemic stretches on the need only grows.

In November, Caritas saw lines backed up all the way down Webster Avenue with people waiting to receive food.

With Christmas just being a few weeks away, and kids out of school for the holiday break, the food bank is preparing for an even greater need this month.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen. We were worried about our financial future and were we going to be able to help all the clients that needed it,”said Caritas Co-Executive Director, Ann Owen.

More than 3.8 million Texans have applied for unemployment benefits since March, and as federal and state funding for unemployment programs finish up, local food banks are expecting an even greater need leading into the new year.

“We’re seeing more families. We’re seeing new families that have never been here before that have never needed our services in the past,”said Owen.

In November alone, Caritas fed over 11,000 individuals.

“I expect that to increase as the pandemic keeps going on. We, like everyone else, thought it would be over by now, but the longer we see it going on, the more we see the economic impact we see it having on our clients and we expect to see it more and more,”said Owen.

As the need grows, USDA programs like Free Meals for All Kids, the Food Purchase and Distribution Program, and Farmers to Families Food Box program will finish up at the end of the year.

On top of that, many food pantries have had to lose volunteers in order to free up space to abide by COVID-19 protocols.

“When the pandemic hit we had to limit the number of volunteers for their safety and for our staff’s safety. The Rapoport Foundation, locally, gave us the funds to have temporary employees here that can help us out in loading the vehicles and that has just really been a God sent,”said Owen.

Caritas is always accepting nonperishable food items and monetary donations as they prepare for another surge towards the end of the month.