September is considered Hunger Action Month, an initiative that asks all of us to take a stand against hunger. As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to ripple across North Texas, those on the front lines of fighting hunger could use some help themselves.
"We don't have the volunteers we normally had. And, we're also trying to get food into the community at higher rates in the past," said Julie Butner, president and CEO at the Tarrant Area Food Bank that serves 13 counties.
"We've had a 40% increase in demand. Most have come from the new hungry, those who haven't needed services before and now they've lost work or they're furloughed."
The food bank recently added to its mission to serve clients with new Mega Mobile Markets. It's done in partnership with the Fort Worth ISD and happens every Friday morning at the Herman Clark Stadium at 5201 CA Roberson Boulevard. Up to 1,500 families get 80 pounds of food every Friday until Nov. 20.
And this is where Hunger Action Month comes in. The food bank needs volunteers to serve the hundreds of clients.
"We're safe. We follow CDC guidelines. We're outside. So, we invite the public to help us by volunteering," Butner said.
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Volunteers are not allowed in the distribution center, right now. The packing and sorting are now done by restaurant and hospitality staff still out of work but getting paid and in this way, still serving others.
For everyone here, questions about what's next stay top of mind.
"Our worries for the fall and winter season is that the economy hasn't fully recovered, and we will continue to see clients at higher than typical levels," Butner said.
Yet, Butner, who is in her first year at TAFB, also has an eye on what she wants to see post-COVID. Her goal is to expand some programs and services.
"What I refer to as our "shorten the line" programs -- community gardens, health care pantry, school pantries. Those are those of the programs we're targeting next spring," Butner said.