November Media

Here’s a look at some stories about the East Texas Food Bank during the month of November 2021:

Feeding Neighbors, Building Community: East Texas Food Bank Announces New Strategic Plan

The East Texas Food Bank, East Texas’s largest hunger-relief organization, announces a strategic plan for $11.8 million in investments across its 26-county service area. The plan will work to ensure that the one in five East Texans who are facing hunger have access to the nutritious food they need.

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a heightened awareness of hunger in East Texas. We’ve all seen the long lines of cars waiting for hours to receive a free box of groceries. Thankfully, it has also brought out resiliency in our hunger-relief network and unprecedented generosity from our community,” said East Texas Food Bank CEO Dennis Cullinane. “With a renewed sense of understanding and empathy towards hunger in East Texas, now is the time to build upon the momentum and strategically grow our programs to meet the need.”

The announcement comes as East Texas is battling an unprecedented hunger crisis. Texas has the seventh highest food insecurity rate in the nation. Locally, one in five East Texans, including one in four children, are facing hunger. That’s approximately 239,800 East Texans, including 85,450 children.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic hit our most vulnerable neighbors the hardest. Seniors couldn’t safely go to the grocery store. Hard-working parents had to switch to at-home learning and lost the free and reduced meal programs through school. College students lost their jobs when restaurants shut down. We heard so many stories like these from people who had never needed food assistance before the pandemic,” Cullinane said. “Even though our state reopened and the economy is on the path to recovery, we are still seeing an increased need for food assistance. Our response continues to be a marathon, not a sprint.”

To meet the need, the East Texas Food Bank, in collaboration with its network of partner agencies, community leaders and generous donors, will work to ensure people struggling with hunger have access to the nutritious food they need to thrive. In order to do this, the East Texas Food Bank seeks to distribute 32 million meals a year throughout East Texas by 2025.

The East Texas Food Bank will accomplish this ambitious goal through six key strategic initiatives in its highest-need communities:

  1. Major Partner Agency Investment– ETFB will invest in strategic partner food pantries to expand their capacity to provide traditional meal distribution as a primary way to increase local food resources and increase their SNAP outreach and applications.
  2. Resource Centers– ETFB will bring the resource center model started in North Lufkin to other high-need communities. The resource centers will include a client-choice, healthy pantry and other wrap-around support services to provide a one-stop-shop of support for families.
  3. Targeted Direct and Mobile Pantry Distributions– ETFB will continue direct, targeted distributions it started during the pandemic to reach low-income, under-resourced neighborhoods with fresh produce.
  4. Fresh Produce and Purchasing Program– There is a high need for fresh produce, which is crucial for a healthy diet. ETFB will continue scaling its fresh produce and purchased food program to increase the availability and variety of items to its partner agencies.
  5. State and National Advocacy– ETFB will work in partnership with Feeding Texas and Feeding America to secure high-priority public policy, legislation and resources to support the collective, long-term goals to end hunger.
  6. Infrastructure- Key investments will include building out the East Texas Food Bank facilities and fleet and adding the staffing needed to meet this ambitious goal.

The revised strategic plan was made possible in part by a $9 million donation by renowned philanthropist Mackenzie Scott. In late 2020, Scott’s team anonymously researched 6,490 organizations and ultimately chose to invest in only 384. Of the 200 food banks across the U.S., ETFB was one of 42 selected.

In the Medium post, Scott said her team of advisors took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates and low access to philanthropic capital.

Scott noted, “We do this research and deeper diligence not only to identify organizations with high potential impact, but also to pave the way for unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached. Our research is data-driven and rigorous, our giving process can be human and soft.”

“This generous investment in the East Texas Food Bank is a vote of confidence in the work we are all doing together to end hunger in East Texas,” Cullinane said. “Every partner agency, volunteer, donor, staff member, board member and stakeholder should feel proud to receive this recognition and investment.”

However, Cullinane added that the hunger crisis in East Texas is bigger than what any one philanthropist can solve. It will take individuals, corporations, foundations and our local organizations working together to end hunger.

“Ending hunger and its devastating effects in East Texas is within our reach when we all come together to fight hunger. With these investments and continued generosity of all East Texans, we can end hunger together,” Cullinane said.

In The News

East Texas Food Bank to receive philanthropic investment from MacKenzie Scott

Recently, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott published a list of charitable investments that she is making in non-profits across the United States, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. According to the article Scott published on Medium, 384 organizations were selected and the East Texas Food Bank is honored and proud to be included in this list of gift recipients.

“We are quickly convening our board of directors, leadership team and other stakeholders to ensure that the philanthropy entrusted to us will help more East Texans access more nutritious food and support services equitably and efficiently- now, during the crisis of COVID-19, and for the long term,” said East Texas Food Bank Chief Executive Officer Dennis Cullinane.

ETFB plans to share details about the gift and how it will be invested across ETFB’s 26 county service area in early 2021.

“This generous investment in the East Texas Food Bank is a vote of confidence in the work we are all doing together to end hunger in East Texas,” Cullinane said. “Every partner agency, volunteer, donor, staff member, board member and stakeholder should feel proud to receive this recognition and investment.”

Cullinane added that the investment will serve to advance our strategic plan and our capacity to achieve the goal of ending hunger in East Texas by enabling us to invest in initiatives and tactics that up until now lacked resources.

“The hunger crisis is bigger than what any one philanthropist can solve,” Cullinane added. Ending hunger and its devastating effects in East Texas is within our reach when we all come together to fight hunger. With this investment and continued generosity of all East Texans, we can end hunger together.”

The announcement comes as East Texas is battling an unprecedented hunger crisis. Texas has the 7th highest food insecurity rate in the nation. Locally, one in five East Texans, including one in three children, is facing hunger. That’s 256,410 East Texans, including 96,350 children and households of color experience disproportionately higher rates of hunger.

“The East Texas Food Bank values transparency and after a thorough review, analysis and strategic planning, we will share our plans for this investment and the impact it will have on the people we serve,” Cullinane added.

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.”

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)