A new day brings a fresh start. But for some families, it also brings a daily worry: Will we have enough food today?
Food insecurity is in every corner of North Texas. NBC 5 and Telemundo 39 want to help change that. We are joining programs and people fighting hunger, and we're putting money into the solution.
We kick off this new campaign with one of the programs powered by a grant from the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation.
"There are gonna be people who a year ago weren't visiting a food pantry are going to have to through the end of the year and into next year just to get back to what their 'normal' used to be," said Meredith Parrott as she watched the steady stream of cars lining up for help at CitySquare in Dallas. Parrott is the nonprofit's Food Operations Manager.
CitySquare operates the city's highest-volume food pantry but also provides over 500,000 meals annually to individuals, families and children in need.
The organization has perfected its operation with more than 30 years of fighting hunger. The coronavirus pandemic has made the need greater with new people seeking services for the first time.
"People who when the new year started at 2020 just never thought they'd visit a food pantry, 'I have a job. I have income. I kinda have a plan for the year,' and that's just really changed," Parrott said.
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Families needing food go to the, appropriately named, CitySquare Opportunity Center on Malcolm X Boulevard. Neighbors - not clients - used to get a choice of items. Now, the food is pre-packaged to maintain safety. Four days a week, neighbors wait in their cars in a line that keeps coming.
"We're still seeing an average of 250 families every single day," Parrott said. "And, we''re going through uncertainty again, we're already seeing an increase in need."
The need to do more led CitySquare to fire up an innovative Food Recovery Program. A trained chef takes food from the pantry that would go to waste and transforms it into prepared and packaged meals. The program got a big boost with the recent $50,000 Project Innovation grant from the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation.
"That's really helped our food rescue program which is this new dynamic program where we take food that comes into the pantry and not just give it out as groceries, but we're able to make complete healthy meals with that," explained Parrott. "And our food recovery team is also able to go out and seek new partners and prevent food waste and turn that into a resource for us to meet the food insecure needs of our neighbors in Dallas."
CitySquare has the people and the programs but Parrott says everyone can have a role in fighting hunger.
"The pantry is in high need of canned tuna, any other kind of canned meat. Peanut butter is a really big need right now. Those are kitchen staples anyone can use," Parott said.
"We're really planning for the future despite the fact that it's so uncertain what that's going to look like, but I think the reality all of us are realizing is this need is not going to go away once we go back to normal or whatever that looks like, so we're going to see an increased need as individuals catch up on bills," Parott said.