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Above, Kyle City Councilmember Robert Rizo grabs boxes of food during Thursday's Central Texas Food Bank mass distribution in Kyle. Daily Record photo by Stephanie Gates

CTX Food Bank serves thousands in Kyle

Thursday, June 18, 2020

KYLE — The Central Texas Food Bank served 1,434 families at a second special food distribution event in Kyle since the pandemic hit.

More than 500 cars were parked at the Smile Direct Facility in Kyle Thursday morning, waiting to receive food from the Central Texas Food Bank.

Their operations team worked hard to ensure there wasn’t a long wait, but cars were already lined up before their volunteers arrived at 7 a.m. to prepare for the 9 a.m. start time.

Bilingual volunteers directed traffic in the lot, and performed an intake process that was designed to be welcoming to all. 

“We try to make it as low-barrier as possible. We are not here to decide who does and doesn’t need food. You say you need food, and we are going to make sure you get it,” Director of Agency Services for CTXFB, Elizabeth Peña said. 

Volunteers are trained to treat everyone with dignity and respect, an important attitude when welcoming some families who are worried they may be asked for documentation. The intake process is solely for CTXFB’s records to know what zip codes they are serving and how many families are first time attendees.

Each vehicle waited in the lot to be funneled into a shorter drive-through line where they would receive one box of assorted produce, two gallons of milk, one box of frozen chicken and a flier about filling out the census.

CTXFB put a lot of effort into ensuring there were as few people involved in the process as possible, from arranging pre-packaging of the boxes at various locations rather than the normal “grab what you like,” model to asking only one person from each family attended and limiting the number of volunteers at each hand-off station. 

All volunteers were wearing masks, and boxes were deposited directly into the trunks of vehicles for minimal human-to-human interaction. 

They also had minimal product on the driveway at one time, constantly refilling from a truck nearby. 

The drive-through model was in itself a modification for social distancing and caused many smaller mobile food pantry sites to be consolidated into these larger events.

The most common request is for frozen protein, Peña said, which has been expensive to acquire since their normal avenues for food donations are still impacted by the hoarding that emptied grocery shelves at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“It takes planning to stay ahead of food sources. We treat this like a marathon not a sprint,” Peña said. 

Beyond the parking lot, a line of cars wrapped around the facility at least one mile long toward I-35, a visual representation of the impact of the economic crisis on Hays County.

Knowing the portions distributed Thursday may not be enough to hold families over until the next mass distribution event, CTXFB is ready to serve anytime, anywhere. Visit centraltexasfoodbank.org and click “find food now” to get hours and addresses for the nearest food pantries.

CTXFB’s mobile food pantries have been around for 10 years, and the increased demand for food isn’t slowing them down. Volunteers helped prepackage the food at various locations, and many who help with the distribution have been following them around from site to site.

The last mass distribution event in Kyle served 1,416 families. Across their 21 county service area, the number of households they have served has increased by 39% and the number of households receiving food for the first time has increased by 220% since January. 

CTXFB does not yet have plans for their next mass distribution event. In the meantime, those wanting to help can fuel their mission with monetary donations, giving them the flexibility to purchase food however they can. Visit centraltexasfoodbank.org and click “donate.”

San Marcos Record

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