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'As long as we take care of the people,' says Caldwell pantry director amidst soaring demand

Posted at 8:54 PM, Nov 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-29 21:54:07-05

BURLESON COUNTY, Texas — Rozio Juarez can't always afford food — it's simply too expensive.

"My husband is sometimes work, sometimes no work, so it's one blessing for my family," she said.

She's been visiting the Caldwell Christians Care Food Pantry for six months.

But the food pantry itself is asking for donations and volunteers to help meet the demand.

"We definitely have seen an increase from the prior years. We, now, served about 180 families since the beginning of the year," said Director, Dena Matcek.

But they're not alone.

All three food pantries in Burleson County — Caldwell Christians Care, Elizabeth Lutheran Church Food Pantry and In God’s Hands Ministries — are seeing a 37 percent increase in visitors from 2022, and 424,979 pounds of food were distributed to the pantries last year, according to the Brazos Valley Food Bank.

But food insecurity is rising, especially in rural counties, due to the end of benefits created during the pandemic like free school meals and SNAP emergency allotments.

It is exacerbated by inflation.

Now, the pantry is upping its food intake to 55,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds, applying for grants and using store funds to keep the pantry full.

They also adjust the amount of food people can take based on family size.

Matcek just doesn't want to turn anyone away.

"It's nothing I worry about as long as we take care of the people," she said.

Juarez doesn't want to lose her help.

"It's so much money at the stores, and in here, it's a blessing because it helps so much," Juarez said. "The food here—it's good for my life. It helped so much."

The pantry takes monetary and food donations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.