Summer Food Program continues to serve meals despite COVID-19

Did you know that 1 in 3 East Texas children are facing hunger this summer?

The East Texas Food Bank’s Summer Food Program is underway at 21 sites throughout our East Texas service area to help feed those hungry children.

The program serves children under 18 during the time when they no longer have access to free and reduced meals and snacks that they receive during the school year. Since these programs end when school does, the Summer Food Service Program helps fill the hunger gap ensuring that children continue to receive nutritious meals during the summer.

Normally, children can enjoy their meals from the program at places like schools, parks and other recreational facilities with their friends. This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that.

Instead of children staying at the site to eat as in years past, they can pick up their meals and return to home.

“There definitely is an impact this year,” said Lexi Tremble, Summer Food Site Supervisor for Andrew’s Park in Tyler. “It’s an interesting time for families because usually they come and we have activities and get to engage with the kids. We can’t have the full extent of our program, but we are still feeding them and they are grateful for that.”

Another change for this year is that children pick up both a lunch for that day and a breakfast for the next morning. On the day we visited Andrews Park, over 30 meals were distributed.

“The parents and the kids love they are getting both meals at the same time,” Tremble said adding that St. Paul’s Children Foundation also participates in a summer backpack program that provides extra meals over the weekend on Fridays.

“We’ve received so many positive remarks from parents about how important and necessary that is for their kids,” she said.

Parents like Rita, whose 2 year-old, energetic son Romeo was playing at the park on a hot, summer day, said the meals will be helpful.

“It’s convenient,” Rita said adding that it was her first time to visit the site. “I drove by, saw the sign and he saw kids playing and got excited.”

Rita said she was sure she and Romeo would be back to participate again in the program on their park visit.

Tremble shared that despite the challenges faced this year, the East Texas Food Bank has done a great job.

“We are so grateful to the food bank,” she said. “Just me being able to see the kids come, get excited about meals, getting to interact with them and talk about how important this meal is for them. Thank you for allowing us at St. Paul’s to provide those meals.”

For more information about the Summer Food Program and locations near you, visit EastTexasFoodBank.org/SummerFood.

If you would like to financially support our work and help provide for the 1 in 3 East Texans children facing hunger, please give at EastTexasFoodBank.org/DonateNow.

East Texas Food Bank, T.L.L. Temple Foundation address food insecurity in deep East Texas

The T.L.L. Temple Foundation has awarded the East Texas Food Bank a 1.89 million dollar grant to launch the Deep East Texas Food Security Initiative on July 1. Over the next several years, the initiative will address four key focus areas:

  1. Partner Agency Development and Capacity Building
  2. Increased Fresh Produce Distribution
  3. Social Benefits Application Assistance
  4. Development of Deep East Texas Resource Center (including purchasing 105 Lofton St., Lufkin, TX.)

The East Texas Food Bank exists to fight hunger and feed hope in East Texas.  ETFB distributes food to a network of more than 200 partner agencies and feeding programs throughout 26 East Texas counties, including 11 counties served by the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, which are Anderson, Angelina, Bowie, Cass, Cherokee, Houston, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rusk, San Augustine and Shelby.

“The aim of this initiative is primarily to increase support for rural areas in 11 counties we share with ETFB.  Lufkin is blessed to have a number of organizations focused on food insecurity.  Through the Deep East Texas Resource Center, the foundation will be able to enhance our support for organizations serving rural people and rural places,” said T.L.L. Temple Foundation President and CEO Wynn Rosser. “ETFB is a critical resource for our region, and the foundation is excited to work with Dennis and his team in this new way.”

Last fiscal year, the East Texas Food Bank provided more than 21.3 million meals throughout its service area, including approximately 8.4 million meals in the 11-county focus area for this initiative.

In those 11 counties, nearly 20 percent of residents are at risk of hunger, including approximately 26 percent of children.

“Due to the pandemic, we’re expecting the food insecurity rate to grow even further,” said East Texas Food Bank Chief Executive Officer Dennis Cullinane“According to projections from Feeding America, we’re anticipating about one in four East Texans, including one in three children, to be at risk of hunger. We are committed to increasing our distribution and services to meet this need.”

The initiative will also work to address major public health problems related to food insecurity. Family members in food insecure households are more likely to report poorer health and depressive symptoms and have higher risks for chronic diseases like obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, conditions related to heart disease are the leading cause of death in northeast Texas. Additionally, in counties served by the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, the percentages of adults diagnosed with diabetes range from nine to 21 percent.

The initiative will address these health issues by increasing access to healthy, nutritious food and fresh produce items. The grant funding from the Temple Foundation will help ETFB increase produce distribution over the next two years – providing funding for 600,000 pounds of fresh produce in fiscal year 2021 and 1.2 million pounds in fiscal year 2022.

The initiative will also expand ETFB’s Benefits Assistance Program in deep East Texas. Currently, only one of 56 partner agencies in the 11 shared counties offer the program. In conjunction with food distributions, ETFB partner agencies will help clients sign up for programs such as SNAP, WIC, Medicaid and more.

Lastly, the grant will fund the Deep East Texas Resource Center at 105 Lofton St., Lufkin, TX. The new-multi service branch will expand and increase the accessibility of food assistance and provide wrap-around services to community members in need.

The Resource Center is intended to augment the good work done by Lufkin’s current food pantries and will include a Healthy Pantry Program, host nutrition education classes, serve as a fresh produce redistribution center, provide on-site benefits assistance and provide access to other services such as Texas Workforce Commission and WIC.

One of the key elements of the initiative and purposes of the Resource Center is to increase the availability of fresh produce in the 11 rural counties, which are a focus of this initiative.

“Unfortunately, many East Texans have little or no access to fresh produce,” Cullinane said. “Families on a tight food budget are forced to stretch their food dollars and often buy cheap, high-calorie foods that ward off hunger but have limited nutritional value.”

Our Message To You

Our country and our communities are facing a perfect storm of social issues. The East Texas Food Bank’s mission is to fight hunger and feed hope across our 26 East Texas counties – regardless of our clients’ race, national origin, religious creed, gender identity, disability or political beliefs.

Our core values of respect for the client, passion, inclusiveness, integrity, and collaboration are at the center of everything we do, especially of our stance on equity and justice. We stand in support of all the disparate people in our community as we work to close the hunger gap here in East Texas.

As a leader in the social service sector, we cannot ignore the sobering reality that food insecurity exists at a rate twice as high for black Americans. We cannot ignore the fact that poverty exists at a rate that is twice as high for black Americans than white Americans. Systemic racism lies at the heart of many issues that contribute to hunger across America.

Diversity, equity and inclusion have been priorities for the East Texas Food Bank and will continue to be as we move forward. These goals are in our current strategic plan and we work hard to integrate them in our daily work and operations.

I encourage you to learn about hunger in our community and how it affects your neighbors. Due to the pandemic, we are anticipating that nearly 1 in 4 East Texans, including 1 in 3 children, are facing hunger. You can view this interactive map to learn about food insecurity. You can also learn more about our hunger-relief work by reading our Hunger Blog.

If you would like to support our mission of fighting hunger and feeding hope for all our neighbors, please donate here. We will continue working toward the day when all our neighbors have equitable access to food.

Sincerely,

Dennis Cullinane

Chief Executive Officer

East Texas Food Bank


Nuestro país y nuestras comunidades enfrentan una tormenta perfecta de problemas sociales. La misión del East Texas Food Bank es luchar contra el hambre y alimentar la esperanza en nuestros 26 condados del este de Texas, independientemente de la raza, el origen nacional, el credo religioso, la identidad de género, la discapacidad o las creencias políticas de nuestros clientes.

Nuestros valores fundamentales de respeto por el cliente, pasión, inclusión, integridad y colaboración están en el centro de todo lo que hacemos, especialmente nuestra postura sobre la equidad y la justicia. Apoyamos a todas las personas dispares en nuestra comunidad mientras trabajamos para cerrar la brecha de hambre aquí en el este de Texas.

Como líder en el sector de servicios sociales, no podemos ignorar la triste realidad de que la inseguridad alimentaria existe a un ritmo dos veces mayor para los estadounidenses negros. No podemos ignorar el hecho de que la pobreza existe a un ritmo que es dos veces más alto para los estadounidenses negros que para los estadounidenses blancos. El racismo sistémico se encuentra en el centro de muchos problemas que contribuyen al hambre en todo Estados Unidos.

La diversidad, la equidad y la inclusión han sido prioridades para el East Texas Food Bank y lo seguirán siendo a medida que avanzamos. Estos objetivos están en nuestro plan estratégico actual y trabajamos duro para integrarlos en nuestro trabajo y operaciones diarias.

Te animo a aprender sobre el hambre en nuestra comunidad y cómo afecta a tus vecinos. Debido a la pandemia, anticipamos que casi 1 de cada 4 gente del este de tejas, incluido 1 de cada 3 niños, enfrentan hambre. Puede ver este mapa interactivo para aprender sobre la inseguridad alimentaria. También puede obtener más información sobre nuestro trabajo de alivio del hambre leyendo nuestro Blog del Hambre.

Si desea apoyar nuestra misión de combatir el hambre y alimentar la esperanza de todos nuestros vecinos, haga una donación aquí. Continuaremos trabajando hacia el día en que todos nuestros vecinos tengan acceso equitativo a los alimentos.

Sinceramente,

Dennis Cullinane

Director Ejecutivo

East Texas Food Bank

Feeding America CEO visits East Texas to address national, local response to COVID-19

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During her visit to East Texas, Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot said the COVID-19 pandemic has created a “perfect storm” due to increases in demand for food and decreases both in supply and volunteers.

At a news conference Friday at the Rose Garden Center in Tyler, she shared what’s being done on the national and local level to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She called the number of people facing food insecurity staggering as the demand swells and the supplies go downward.

National estimates show 53 million people could soon be food insecure because of the impact of the pandemic.
(Read more from Tyler Paper)

Pandemic causing spike in food insecurity

One of the effects of COVID-19 pandemic is a rise in food insecurity.

As a result, East Texas non-profits like the East Texas Food Bank have held distribution events to help feed those in need during this uncertain time.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the CEO of the non-profit Feeding America, visited Tyler Friday for a distribution event. She says the East Texas Food Bank is a model organization for other food banks around the country.
(Read and watch from KYTX CBS19)