“We have been able to have enough food for everyone that comes.”

Ursula

Ursula Plaisance has been the director of Helping Hands of Kilgore, an East Texas Food Bank partner agency, for just over four years. However, nothing could have prepared her for the effects of 2020 on her pantry.

“COVID really rocked all of our worlds,” Ursula said. “We’ve seen an influx of people that have had job losses. Some that are just not able to make ends meet because their hours have gotten reduced. Some have gone on furlough, so that has affected a lot of our families.”

Helping Hands of Kilgore normally sees between 70 to 90 new families each month, but that number doubled during September and October.

“We’ve seen a lot of new families,” Ursula said. “We have been able to have enough food for everyone that comes. Thanks to the help from the East Texas Food Bank, we get the items we need.”

Due to COVID, Ursula told us the pantry had to make some changes in how they serve their clients. This included placing a table at the entrance where food items are gathered. Once complete, clients pick up their items and the table is cleaned and sanitized before the next client’s items are gathered.

“We have everyone wear masks,” Ursula said. “We just want to be very cautious for our volunteers and clients.”

Speaking of volunteers, Ursula said they have “been remarkable” during these tough months.

“When we train volunteers, they love to come and work,” she said. “They look forward to being here. We are like a big family.”

Ursula knows that hunger will still exists after the COVID pandemic is over, but she is glad Helping Hands of Kilgore will be there to help.

“Without the East Texas Food Bank, I don’t think we could run as smoothly and as confident knowing that we are going to get the produce that we need to distribute to our families,” Ursula said. “None of this would be possible without the food bank.”

5 Hopeful Stories in 2020 from the East Texas Food Bank

As this year comes to a close, we took a look back at the stories of hope that inspired us during these tough months of 2020. While COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on our communities, we are grateful for the staff, volunteers, donors, partner agencies and supporters who have come together to feed hope for our neighbors in need. Here’s a look at 5 hopeful stories from 2020.


Longview ISD middle school students write original cookbook, proceeds benefit East Texas Food Bank

It’s the season of giving and a group of students at Longview ISD’s Judson Middle School are getting into the spirit. They wrote a cookbook and decided to sell them to the community and use the funds they raised to help feed local families in need.


Texas National Guard arrives at the East Texas Food Bank

In April, we were thankful to have the Texas Army National Guard arrive and were the official “boots on the ground” at the East Texas Food Bank. The guardsmen ensured that we continued to safely meet the need for food assistance in our 26-county coverage area. They supported our production of emergency food boxes and distribution and transportation tasks as long during our pandemic response.


Being a light in a time of need

Coby volunteered with us to help distribute food during several of our produce distributions in Tyler. The effects of the pandemic left him out of work for a period of time, so he felt the need to give back. “From talking to people in our community here, I have realized what dark times this is for so many. I hope people see there is a light and that you can help someone in need,” Coby told us. You can read more of Coby’s story here.

Coby

 


“We feel like someone cares here.”

We met Binu at the weekly distribution in Tyler this year.  He, his wife and two children were new not only East Texas, but to the United States, arriving during an unprecedented pandemic affecting the country after a 14 year process. “Giving food to somebody is the biggest charity you can do a person,” Binu said. “We all need food and water to survive so those who are providing this kind of thing is big. Nothing is better in the world.”You can read more of Binu’s story here.

Binu


Providing #OneLessWorry in partnership with St. Paul Children’s Foundation

Due to pandemic, many of our partner agencies had to quickly switch how they were distributing food to families in need in order to prevent exposure to the virus. For St. Paul Children’s Foundation in Tyler, this meant moving from a “client choice” pantry to drive-thru service. Operations Supervisor Wyatt Bynum chatted with us about how the pantry is still helping in the community.

Providing #OneLessWorry in partnership with St. Paul Children’s Foundation

When our neighbors are struggling, the East Texas Food Bank is here to help. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were already facing a hunger crisis in our community, with more than 241,000 East Texans at risk of hunger.

In the last month, we have seen more than a 20% increase in our food distribution and we anticipate that the need will keep rising. We are committed to continuing our vital core work of food distribution during this crisis, as well as also providing emergency food boxes.

We distribute food through a network of more than 200 partner agencies and feeding programs throughout 26 East Texas counties. We recently visited one of our partner pantries St. Paul Children’s Foundation in Tyler.

St Paul’s has recently switched their operations from a Client-Choice Pantry to a drive-thru food box distribution to keep their staff, volunteers and families they serve safe. They have seen a 300% increase in the amount of families they are serving.

Watch the video above for more from St. Paul Children’s Foundation.

To help provide for those facing hunger during this pandemic, please give here.