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.



“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.


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.

Being a light in a time of need

My name is Coby, and I’m a salon owner here in Tyler. The coronavirus left me out of work for a time. I was grateful to spend more time with my children to help with their schoolwork, but I also had more time to stress and worry about bills and all the uncertainty. That’s why I decided to volunteer.

I felt like it was a time to be safe, but also a time to help if I could. I saw an ad on TV about East Texas Food Bank providing meals and I immediately called to offer my help.

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.

You see the best in people in the worst of times. We’re determined to be part of the best by helping the East Texas Food Bank. I think together, we can help each other get through these difficult times.

We are so grateful to Coby and all our volunteers for being so generous with their time! You have all been a vital part of East Texas recovering and growing stronger through challenging circumstances.

To learn more about how you can volunteer, click here.

East Texas Food Bank honors seven recipients with inaugural Hunger Hero Awards

  • Brookshire Grocery Company

To recognize the outpouring of support from the community during the East Texas Food Bank’s crisis response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ETFB honored seven recipients with the inaugural Hunger Hero Awards.

Hunger Hero Awards were given to Brookshire Grocery Company, Longview Police Department, Smith County Government, Texas Army National Guard 1st Squadron 124th Calvary Regiment, The Mentoring Alliance, T.L.L. Temple Foundation and Tyler Police Department.

“Hunger existed in East Texas long before the pandemic hit and now more of our neighbors – kids in our children’s classes, the barista at the local coffee shop and our working-class neighbors– are struggling to put food on the table today,” said East Texas Food Bank Chief Executive Officer Dennis Cullinane. “We’re inspired by the support we’ve received from the community to help ensure that all East Texas have access to the nutritious food they need to thrive during these difficult times.”

The awards were given during Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month. The awareness month is every September and works to inspire community to take action and bring attention to the reality of Hunger in East Texas.

“It is the Tyler Police Department’s honor and privilege to fully support the highly professional and compassionate people of the East Texas Food Bank,” said Tyler Police Department Sergeant Matt Leigeber. “Our local government officials recognized early on with the COVID-19 pandemic, that many of our citizens in East Texas are facing extremely difficult times, many for the first time.  When the East Texas Food Bank requested to partner with the Tyler Police Department in order to safely and efficiently serve thousands of our citizens on a regular basis, we were excited to be a part of that.”

Hunger impacts people in every corner of the country, including 282,530 people, 105,850 of which are children, right here in East Texas. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of East Texans facing hunger increased five percent and the number of children increased 10 percent.

Before the pandemic hit, one in five East Texans, including one in four children, were facing hunger. According to projections from Feeding America, now it’s nearly one in four East Texans, including one in three children.

“For 92 years, Brookshire Grocery has been committed to causes including hunger relief in the communities where we live and work. Never has the need been more pervasive or sustained than during this pandemic. We are very grateful to have been able to partner with the East Texas Food Bank to help those who have been affected by the pandemic,” said Chairman and CEO of Brookshire Grocery Co. Brad Brookshire.

“Hunger is a crisis in East Texas that will take the whole communities’ support to fight. While the fight against hunger is ongoing- together, we can feed hope for our neighbors in need,” Cullinane said.

Volunteers help fight hunger and feed hope during COVID-19 pandemic

Volunteers are an essential part to helping the East Texas Food Bank continue our mission of “fighting hunger and feeding hope in East Texas”.  They have played a much more vital role recently as we have been distributing even more food due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic everyone is facing.

One of our great volunteers, Bertha Viramontes, has been helping with the Tyler produce distribution held at the East Texas State Fairgrounds twice a month for almost a year.

“I’ve seen that there are a lot of people that need food,” she said.  “It’s been good to help others and give them food for their tables.”

Bertha said she sees people smiling and saying thank you often while she is working.

“You get to know people and their situations,” she said.

While COVID-19 has not affected Bertha or her family personally, she understands the hardships many she sees during the distribution are facing.

“Food is getting much more expensive and then you may have (purchase) limits,” she said.

Bertha encourages anyone who wants to help to contact the food bank to find out how to volunteer.

“At the end of the day, you will feel good helping.”

If you would like to volunteer with the East Texas Food Bank, click here to find out more information.

Volunteers are essential to helping during COVID-19, year-round

It’s Volunteer Appreciation Week! Year-round, our volunteers demonstrate their commitment to fighting hunger and feeding hope by working to get food into the hands of our the families we serve.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us how influential volunteers are to the East Texas Food Bank and we are so appreciative of their continued support.
Just last year, over 15,000 volunteer shifts logged more than 44,000, helping us provide 21.3 million meals.
Volunteers can help in a variety of ways and are always welcome during our volunteer hours. Normal volunteer opportunities include: repacking rice, beans and pastas, helping pack boxes for our BackPack and Senior Box programs, inspecting and sorting food items and helping with administrative duties in the office.
Volunteers have also been critical in our COVID-19 emergency response. The community has stepped up to help us back and distribute emergency food boxes through drive-thru events and delivering them to homebound seniors.
The East Texas Food Bank’s best work is only possible because of the dedication of thousands of people who together volunteer thousands of hours of their time.
To learn more about volunteering with us, please click here.