You have probably heard about the Hays County Food Bank (we used to be the San Marcos Area Food Bank) and realize that some people need help putting enough food on the table for their family. But what do you know about the magnitude of food insecurity (what??) in our county or what it takes to help feed your neighbors in need? Or what you can do to help?
Since June is National Hunger Awareness Month, we’d like to provide you with answers to these questions and more.
US Department of Agriculture reports that 50+ million Americans are food insecure, which means that they do not always have easy access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200+ food banks and food rescue organizations in the United States, just released their Map the Meal Gap 2013 hunger study that indicates that 24,000 Hays County residents
are food insecure.1
Thanks to incredible community support, we provided food to more than 18,000 Hays County area residents in 2012. Doing this required staff and volunteers to pick up food from the San Marcos, Kyle, and Buda H-E-B stores seven days a week and bring it back to the Food Bank to unload, weigh, sort, and repackage. To be easily accessible to people needing our services, we deliver food to six weekly public food distributions at different times and locations throughout the county. Our team unloads and helps set up and oversee the food distribution at 5 of the 6 sites.
The hard-working team also prepares orders for partner agencies to pick up and deliver to their own clients Our partner agencies include the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center, Southside Community Center, CTMC Hospice, Hope & Love 4 Kids, and Community Action. We also provide food that is distributed at the Buda United Methodist Church Food Pantry and the Wimberley Crisis Break Basket.
Although some clients only need our help to overcome a short term financial challenge, about 50% of our regular clients are seniors living on fixed incomes. Another 35% are working families with children. The balance includes people with various disabilities and unique personal challenges, like losing their job or dealing with a medical emergency or having to pay high utility bills during the summer. Your local food bank is here for people who need help, year round, regardless of the reason or the season.
June is also National Fresh and Fruit and Vegetables Month, the perfect time to make people aware of local support for Fresh Quest, our ongoing search for new sources of fresh produce. In April, Central Texas Medical Center planted a new CREATION Health Garden specifically to provide a variety of fresh produce.
Our clients are already enjoying the tomatoes, squash and other vegetables this garden provides. The San Marcos Community Garden(behind St. John’s Catholic Church) and Sustainable San Marcos’ Dunbar Neighborhood Garden have also been bringing us organic produce like kale and Swiss chard for over a year, and now we are also receiving eggplant, and potatoes. The new Alamo Neighborhood Garden will soon be harvesting green beans and various other healthy fresh produce to supplement what we receive from HEB.
The Hays County Food Bank distributed more than 599,000 pounds of food at no charge in 2012. Eighty-six percent of that jaw-dropping total was donated by H-E-B and the community. When we say we couldn’t do our job without you, we genuinely mean it.
What can YOU do? Help spread the word that we always need reliable volunteers: van drivers, front office and warehouse help, and right now, we REALLY need people to tend the San Marcos Community garden plots. We also appreciate fresh food and cash donations.
What else? Schedule a tour of the Food Bank for an eye-opening experience of what it takes to get food to Hays County residents dealing with food insecurity. And remember that we’re here for you if you need us, regardless of the reason or season.
1 For more details and to learn more about hunger’s prevalence in our county visit Map the Meal Gap-2013.aspx
Jane Moore, Community Relations Ambassador