By Brittany Anderson
More than 25,000 Hays County residents did not have access to nutritious food in 2019.
One in eight individuals were considered food insecure, according to Feeding America. And with recent job losses since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, that number is rising.
In the last year and a half, Hays County Food Bank (HCFB) has seen a dramatic increase in families seeking food assistance. While stimulus packages, increases to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and unemployment helped reduce the number of people seeking help, this is likely to change in the coming months as services across the country are striving to go ‘back to normal.’
HCFB is encouraging donations and volunteers during the month of September in honor of Hunger Action Month, an effort by Feeding America to raise awareness about the hunger epidemic in the United States.
According to Feeding America, COVID has most impacted families that were already facing hunger. Many of these households have children, and many do not qualify for federal nutrition programs like SNAP as they don’t meet the poverty level — despite not making enough to afford housing/rent, utilities, child care, health care and groceries.
Instead, families in need often turn to local food banks and pantries. From January through July of this year, HCFB has provided food to an average of 2,300 individuals a week.
HCFB communications coordinator Mallory Best said that the food bank works with local grocery and restaurant partners, donors, volunteers and other nonprofit organizations to help fill the gap so that households are not going without a basic human need – food.
“Food insecurity is very much a reality in our county, and hunger is an issue we should all be fighting together,” Best said. “Let’s erase the stigma of asking for help. Nobody should go without food.”
Best said the food bank is encouraging residents in the county to join in and take steps to eradicate food insecurity locally during Hunger Action Month.
“Volunteer, advocate, donate funds, donate food, host a food drive or fundraise,” Best said. “Even if you do not have the means to donate, you can use your voice to share information about food insecurity in our community and help the food bank provide for those in need. Use your social media, share among your friends and family and speak with your churches, clubs and groups.”
If you or someone you know is needing assistance from HCFB, one of the following criteria must be met: have a household income at or below the 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, participate in one of the following government assistance programs (SNAP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, National School Lunch Program or Medicaid) or have a temporary food emergency such as a loss of job, loss of sole provider or a disaster.
Beginning Sept. 1, the food bank will have a new distribution schedule: drive-through every Monday (starting Sept. 13) from 5-5:45 p.m. in the San Marcos Library and Activity Center parking lot, walk-up every Tuesday from 12-12:45 p.m. at St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Kyle, drive-through on the first Wednesday of every month (starting Sept. 8) from 5-5:45 p.m. at Cypress Creek Church in Wimberley and drive-through every Thursday from 12-12:45 p.m. at Connection Church in Buda.
For more information on how to donate or volunteer with the food bank, visit www.haysfoodbank.org.