Bell Elementary makes surprise gift during East Texas Giving Day

ETGD_Bell Elementary

During East Texas Giving Day in April, a record 2.8 million dollars was raised for nonprofit organizations in East Texas. Thanks to our generous donors and matching funds, the East Texas Food Bank was able to raise a remarkable $63,366 dollars to help with our mission of fighting hunger and feeding hope. Those funds  will help provide over 50,000 meals to the families we help.

One gift, however, came as an unexpected surprise.

Bell Elementary Principal Tamara Johnson gave us a call to say the school wanted to donate to the East Texas Food Bank for East Texas Giving Day. Bell Elementary is in Tyler Independent School District.

“Every year before COVID, our campus would host a Jingle Bell Run to raise money to benefit a student who may have been in a health crisis,” Johnson said. “Because of COVID this year, we were not able to go through the process like we normally would for one of our students.”

It was decided the funds would go to the food bank instead.

“The food bank feeds over 100 students here each Friday through the BackPack Program,” Johnson said. “We thought this would still benefit our students and our community with the donation.”

The BackPack Program was created to fill the meal gap on the weekends and extended breaks for students that rely on free and reduced meal programs through school. Staff and faculty members at school campuses, such as Bell, choose which children join the program, based on an assessment of need. On Fridays, participating children each receive a backpack filled with nutritious, kid-friendly items such as fruit, juice, cereal bars and shelf-stable milk to help last them until Monday morning, when school meal programs resume.

The Bell donation to the food bank totaled $10,375.86.

“We were absolutely thrilled to give to the food bank,” Johnson said. “We see your efforts in the community and we wanted to have a greater impact.”

“This gift from Bell Elementary will ensure that the children, families and seniors we serve have access to the nutritious food they need to thrive,” said East Texas Food Bank CEO Dennis Cullinane. “We are so grateful to the staff, students and parents for thinking of us during this day of community giving.”

College students may be eligible for SNAP benefits under temporary program

College students are not exempt from facing hunger. In fact, 39% of students at two-year institutions and 29% at four-year institutions were reported as not having proper access to food in a recent study by The Hope Center. According to Every Texan, “71% of undergraduate college students are single parents, come from low-income families, or work at least half-time, making this the first time in history that lower-income students are enrolling in college at higher rates than their middle-income classmates.”

SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides a defensive to help combat hunger. However, most full-time students are not eligible to receive benefits. Of those eligible, only 4 out of 10 are enrolled.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress made temporary adjustments to SNAP to remove restrictions and allow more students to qualify for benefits. Eligibility is determined by the following:

  • Student must be enrolled at least half-time in a higher education institution (college, university or trade/technical school).
  • Student must participate in state or federally funded work-study during the school year OR
  • Student has an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of 0 in the current academic year
    (Any student who receives the maximum Pell Grant has an EFC of 0).

Documentation such as a financial aid award letter, letter from school, Student Aid Report (SAR) or unemployment documentation may need to be provided to verify benefit eligibility. The new, temporary exemptions will be in effect until 30 days after the federal government lifts the official designation of the nationwide COVID-19 public health emergency.

Our Benefits Assistance Team at the East Texas Food Bank can help you or someone you know determine qualification for these important benefits. Click here to fill out a Benefits Assistance Request and a representative will follow up with you.

“Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” with Walmart, Sam’s Club


One in five East Texans, including one in three children, are facing hunger this year due to the ongoing economic fallout from COVID-19. Neighbors in our community are struggling to put food on the table – simply facing this difficult reality for the first time in their lives.

That is why Walmart and Sam’s Club are supporting the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks, including the East Texas Food Bank, through the Fight Hunger. Spark Change. campaign. Now in its eighth year, the campaign has been a way for Walmart and Sam’s Club to partner with suppliers, customers, and members to help provide food to people in need. In fact, last year over 870,000 additional meals were provided to families through the East Texas Food Bank thanks to this campaign!

Fight Hunger. Spark Change.  runs in stores and online from April 5 – May 3, 2021. There are four easy ways for customers and members to participate:

Funds raised through Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in our service area will directly benefit the East Texas Food Bank.

Participating suppliers include: Abbott, Bodyarmor, Bush Brothers & Company, Campbell Soup Company, Clif Bar & Company, Ferrera Candy Company, General Mills, Great Value, Iovate Health Sciences, J.M. Smucker, Kellogg’s, Keurig/Mott’s, Kitu Coffee, Kraft Heinz, Materne North America, Mighty Spark, Monster Energy, PEPSICO, Post Consumer Brands, Purina, Simply Good Foods, Strong Roots, The Coca-Cola Company, The Clorox Company, This Saves Lives, Unilever and United States Nutrition.

Deep East Texas Resource Center opens to provide services in Lufkin

  • The Deep East Texas Resource Center (DETRC) is located at 105 Lofton Street in Lufkin, Texas.

The East Texas Food Bank has officially opened its newest program, the Deep East Texas Resource Center, at 105 Lofton St. Lufkin, TX 75904. The goal of DETRC is to augment the good work done by Lufkin’s current food pantries and provide a one-stop-shop of wraparound services with a food pantry, benefits assistance and other support services for families in deep East Texas.

The food pantry will operate Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Families don’t have to live in Lufkin to visit the pantry.

The food pantry is meant to serve households at or below the Emergency Food Assistance Program income guidelines. Families that are experiencing a crisis may also qualify for short-term food assistance.

No identification or paperwork is required to receive assistance. Clients will be asked for a verbal declaration of their full name, address, number of people in the household, date of birth and monthly income.

There are two COVID-safe options to receive food from the pantry.

  1. CURBSIDE– To limit the amount of contact with volunteers and food pantry staff, clients can park in the parking lot. They will be greeted by a volunteer, who will obtain the following information: Full name, address, number of people in the household, date of birth, and monthly income. Once this is complete, the volunteer will load food into their vehicle.
  2. INSIDE– For clients that would like to choose their food, they can shop inside. Clients will be greeted at the reception desk, where a volunteer will take their temperature and provide them with a mask if needed. Masks will be required to receive food inside. If the temperature is in a safe range, clients will be asked their full name, address, number of people in the household, date of birth and monthly income. After that, they’ll sit in the waiting area for a short time before walking through our food pantry to select food from a range of shelf-stable items, meat, and fresh produce. Grocery carts will be available.

In addition to the food pantry, the DETRC will host nutrition education classes, provide on-site and virtual benefits assistance and provide access to other services such as Texas Workforce Commission and WIC. A list of all programs and services can be found at

DETRC was able to open with funding from a grant provided by the T.L.L. Temple Foundation.

If you would like to support DETRC, you can follow and share the Facebook page, volunteer and donate.

Virtual food drives helping make a difference in East Texas during COVID

Virtual Food Drives

Food drives have always been a part of food banking since the beginning. Everyone loves making a difference when they donate their canned, non-perishable food items to help feed families who are struggling. But with the arrival of COVID-19 last year and new protocols to prevent the spread of the virus, the East Texas Food Bank had to make the tough decision to temporarily suspend our community food drives.

Our solution was to introduce Virtual Food Drives. These online pages are a great way to still donate food to the East Texas Food Bank by making monetary gifts. These food drives have proven to be very popular, with over 546,000 meals raised so far “virtually”.

We recently spoke with one of our virtual food drive organizers, Brett Noteware, about his virtual food drive experience..

ETFB: Brett, how did you learn about our Virtual Food Drives?
Brett: The pandemic has adversely impacted many people in our area. My awareness of food scarcity was heightened by a photo I saw of cars lined up to get food at a distribution in Dallas. I then heard about a volunteer event at the East Texas Food Bank sponsored by my employer, CHRISTUS Health. I wanted to participate in that, but decided not to due to the risk of contracting COVID-19. So instead, I contacted the food bank and learned about Virtual Food Drives and thought it would be a great idea.

ETFB: Why did you decide to host a VFD?
Brett: To help those in need that have been impacted by the pandemic. This also aligns with the values of CHRISTUS Health, who thankfully I am still able to work for during the pandemic.

ETFB: Tell us about your specific drive. What made is special?
Brett: I did the virtual food drive as part of my birthday celebration. The pandemic caused me to reassess my life and develop a new appreciation and gratitude for my station in it. I realized that I would have a better birthday by focusing on those in need instead of myself. Since large gatherings were not an option, I did a “gumbo-to-go” event in which my wife and I made gumbo, homemade rolls and bread pudding. We gave it away and asked for donations for the East Texas Food Bank in return. We ended up raising over $1,000 which was amazing and surprising to say the least!

ETFB: Would you encourage someone to hose a virtual food drive for the East Texas Food Bank?
Brett: Absolutely! The process for setting it up was extremely easy. The staff at the East Texas Food Bank do all of the work, you just provide some basic information to them. It was a very rewarding experience and I am hopeful to do another one in the future.

To learn more about our Virtual Food Drives and how you, your organization or business can make a difference, click here.