Demand for food assistance remains high in East Texas, food bank says

Food box at the East Texas Food Bank
Food box at the East Texas Food Bank(Julian Esparza)
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 5:40 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - More than a year after they started, the East Texas Food Bank says their large drive-thru food distributions are still busy with people needing food assistance.

“At the height of the last year, we were serving 75 percent more households than we have in any previous year,” said East Texas Food Bank Program Services Director Tim Butler.

“They’re still averaging about 1,200 people every distribution,” Butler said.

Weekly food distributions fed thousands of East Texans over the last year, and they say the demand for food assistance still remains high.

“I think we’re definitely still seeing some of the economic impact of the pandemic,” Butler said. “Unemployment is still at a high rate. The need here in East Texas has always been there. One in five adults and one in three children are at risk of hunger. That’s almost a quarter of a million people here in the 26 counties we serve.”

While seeing their highest demand ever, the Texas Department of Agriculture slashed the East Texas Food Bank’s funding by 44 percent last October. Since then, that cut was reversed. Nearly $100,000 in funding secured again.

“We’re super glad that we’re gonna get that funding back, but luckily during COVID, there was an outpouring of help from the community, so we were still able to provide what we needed,” Butler said.

And another surprise, a large donation to the food bank from McKenzie Scott − the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The food bank isn’t saying how much money she donated, but it is a big one.

“We’re just blown away and just super dedicated to using that money wisely,” Butler said.

Going forward, the food bank says they’re in good shape to keep holding drive-thru distributions as long as the demand calls for it.

“It could last for quite a while, and we’re in it for the long haul,” Butler said.

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