AUSTIN, Texas - Nearly 1,700 boxes of food and bags of produce were given out on Thursday morning at an East Austin parking lot next to Austin ISD’s Nelson Field. The Central Texas Food Bank distributed free food using its mobile food pantries to help those who are struggling and facing food insecurity during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Ricky Hinkle was among the volunteers working the distribution lanes. Hinkle said he has retired from public service- but not from wanting to serve. "You know as long as you see the smiles on these people's faces, all of them are appreciative,” said Hinkle.
For those in line, it was hard to ignore the dedication and determination of this small army of volunteers. "It means a lot to us, because we are so impressed, with the way things are going, for the help giving to our family, we are so impressed,” said a man who drove to the event with his family.
A young girl, who sat in line with her mother, smiled and waved to the volunteers. "It feels good because they are risking health, to help us get food,” she said.
"Every little bit adds up,” said Elizabeth Pena with the Central Texas Food Bank. Pena praised the volunteers but also spoke about the unseen heroes.
"People who are giving are really helpful, the food bank is having to buy an unprecedented amount of food right now, in order to keep up with the increase in demand, every donation of a dollar provides 4 meals, and so that goes a long way," Pena said. "People advocating and spreading the word about our services who might need them is also helpful."
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SKYFOX Drone provided video images of the parking lot in front of Nelson Field as the distribution started at 9 a.m. It was packed with cars, trucks, and SUVs. The line spilled out, onto the frontage road of SH 290. It backed up almost to the 183 interchange. For many of those who got into the line, it was their first time. Holding out was no longer an option.
A woman by the name of Concepcion was among the new in need. “It’s an excellent idea, and you help a lot of people,” she said.
Another first-timer named Anna was also surprised and didn’t realize how many people were in need. “No I didn’t, no I didn’t, but I'm glad, we are all here and I’m in line like everybody else,” she said.
"The Central Texas Food Bank is concerned about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our neighbors in need. As an “essential service”, we are continuing to meet the needs of those facing hunger," the food bank said in a press release.
Below are the remaining dates and locations of the food distributions:
Thursday, May 21
- Del Valle High School 5201 Ross Rd, Del Valle, TX 78617
- 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 28
- Toney Burger Stadium 3200 Jones Rd, Austin, TX 78745 (Please enter at the north side of the facility from the eastbound Hwy 290 frontage road between Brodie Lane and West Gate)
- 9:00 a.m. – Noon
The food bank says attendees received a box containing shelf-stable items such as peanut-butter, brown rice, canned tuna or chicken, and canned fruit. Attendees also received either a box of frozen food or a bag of produce.
The bank is asking that, for health and safety reasons, only one person from each household was sent to pick up the food.
"To adhere to social distancing requirements, pickup will only be available to those in vehicles. No walk-ups will be allowed. Please make appropriate space in your trunk or hatch before arriving at the event," the bank wrote.
As the noon hour approached, food boxes were consolidated into one final lane. Moments later, three remaining vehicles pulled in, and the last of the 1,680 boxes brought here were loaded up.
The next distribution set for the May 16th at ACC Highland Campus has been canceled because bad weather is expected. It has been rescheduled to the 17th and organizers want people also to know the food bank will be closed on the 25th in observance of Memorial Day.
The bank is also asking for volunteers to assist with this event. Anyone looking to volunteer may sign up on the food bank's website.
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