Hunger is an uncomfortable subject. As a child who was a refugee, I’ve been hungry many times growing up. We were on government programs and sometimes the month stretches too long. Luckily my family was able to buy really cheap what they call “imperfect” vegetables and fruit that were days away from being spoiled at clearance prices because we lived in Southern California and there were a lot of fresh and local Asian markets that sold vegetables from someone’s backyard.
Here in El Paso, the weather and climate aren’t as hospitable and a lot of the goods we consume come from far away places; it’s just cheaper to grow elsewhere that has better soil and climate. Unfortunately, it makes groceries here more expensive by nature of trucking it in. When I first moved here during the pandemic and everything was closed, I inadvertently stumbled on a food pantry on the Westside. I was driving down Doniphan and thought for some reason they were holding a farmer’s market and turned in to ask the volunteers.
When I found out that it was a food pantry, I thought well I didn’t need it so I should save it for people who do, but the volunteers asked me to just take some items to share with others. I saw a couple of posts on Nextdoor and Facebook from families who said they were quarantining because they caught Covid and needed food, so I figured I could drop some off from this pantry, so I loaded up my minivan and did so. I asked the food pantry why there wasn’t so many people like the other food pantries in town and they said they just opened and no one knew about them, so I made a couple of posts and many people started going because they were in need and now knew about it!
That’s the thing, we never know who or when people are in need until it comes down to the last options, and that’s what El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank is all about. I like to list things and I’m gonna do it again….
Here’s what I found out about them going on a requested tour with my friend Melissa Baeza, who’s running for a Judgeship, and who really wants to understand and help out her community:
-They’ve ONLY been open for 5 years as an El Paso born and bred food bank, in the past year, they’ve grown to be the 3rd largest food bank in the nation. They have since BECOME the last resort safety net for a lot of people in El Paso. They supply not only food, but if needed, baby essentials, cleaning products, feminine products. They also have case workers that can help people apply for aid wherever they can.
-They’re currently feeding 6k-8k El Paso families per DAY….before when the National Guard was here to help them package the food they were feeding up to 9k-10k El Paso families DAILY.
-The families I saw today came from all walks of life, and some I knew personally who became furloughed or laid off and couldn’t get back to work without childcare. Mostly though I saw the elderly and disabled. This is their food source, their lifeline. This saves them from making the horrible choice of food or medicine this month. They can have BOTH.
-They didn’t get any funding from the county or city this past year, ALL the money raised was from fundraising and grants they applied for, and federal aid. That’s shocking to me, considering the amount that we spend on our local officials and managers.
-They are El Paso’s ONLY food bank, meaning they are the one with the trucks going to other places in the nation to pick up, store, package, and distribute to ALL the food pantries and food distribution centers you see at the YWCA, the churches, the schools, etc. They’re the BANK that collects and holds the food for distribution. This was an eye-opening fact for me because I thought that the individual churches were the ones collecting and dispersing the donated goods. No wonder I haven’t seen any food collection drives, yet there is so much distributed.
-They are in desperate need of volunteers. With the 88 helpers from the National Guard gone, all they have is around 77 people to feed over 6K DAILY, they just can’t do it without more manpower. The food is there, they just can’t get it out from the warehouse fast enough to supply the families.
-They need donations to either hire on more workers to get the food from the warehouses to the families in need and to get more trucks to get more food.
-Only 3% of the budget goes to administration, the majority DOES go to their cause, which is to feed the hungry.
When the articles came out recently that they were closing 2 Megasites, I thought that it was a positive thing, because the news DIDN’T mention that it was not because the need went down, it was because they didn’t have as any helpers after the National Guard was pulled. It means that people won’t have as many locations or food items because there aren’t enough volunteers to help distribute.
I hope to see you at the sites helping our neighbors and community members!