East Texas food pantries come together for ideas, inspiration at food bank’s annual conference

East Texas food pantries come together for ideas, inspiration at food bank’s annual conference
Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 6:50 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2023 at 6:51 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Across East Texas, food pantries provide a very important service to communities both big and small. Those who make it happen came together on Friday in Tyler for the East Texas Food Bank’s 16th annual Agency Conference in hopes of walking away with new ideas and inspiration.

“I lived on Prosperity Street in Dallas, but nobody was wealthy on Prosperity Street,” said Cheryl “Action” Jackson.

Married at the age of 17, Cheryl Jackson and her husband fell on hard times. As is the case for many people, hard times meant hunger.

“I applied for food stamps and nobody in my family even knew we were hungry,” Jackson said.

With a little help and a lot of faith, things turned around for Jackson. And years later, she now finds herself running one of the largest food pantries in North Texas - Minnie’s Food Pantry - named after her late mother.

“I started out on this journey of just feeding the hungry with two cans of corn, and I said what would life be like if someone who needed something as simple as their next meal could have a red carpet rolled out in front of them?”

Jackson traveled to Tyler to share her story with those who run food pantries in our region.

“We’ve got about 200 people registered across our 26-county area. These are the people that really do the heavy lifting in serving the community’s food from the East Texas Food Bank,” said ETFB CEO Dennis Cullinane.

Cullinane said while food insecurity numbers on the decline, the needs for those who are food insecure are rising.

“Expiring SNAP benefits, some other barriers that are becoming more difficult with getting benefits and assistance, and also inflation is really making a lot of foods more out of reach for our families,” he said.

And on Friday, the people feeding those families are leaving with new ideas and renewed inspiration.

“All it takes is a heart to help. I didn’t have a blueprint, I had a God-print that just said feed the people. And to a lot of people, I would tell them this journey is not easy.”