As food insecurity increases during the pandemic, one of the biggest challenges for local food pantries and food banks is the confusion about how and where struggling families can find healthy food options.
The two groups have launched a call center that will help get food to the right people as quickly as possible.
The program launched this week and utilizes an existing call center that Catholic Charities FW already had inside its facilities. The nonprofit brought on extra volunteers to help field the 200 extra calls they're expecting a week as a result of people seeking food.
“In times of great need, the best thing we can do is put our heads together and amplify each other’s strengths,” said Michael P. Grace, CEO/President of CCFW.
The need came from the frenzy to find food that ensued once the pandemic began two months ago.
TAFB said some church and community organization food pantries have had to shut down due to safety reasons. Some have experienced a lack of donations as their donor base continues to shelter in place. Others had plenty of food that was going to waste with no ability to find the people who needed it.
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Part of that reason could be TAFB is helping families they've never met before. Some were showing up to the distribution center -- which does not have the set up to safely distribute food -- when they should've been going to the pantries instead.
“When this first started in March, the Tarrant Area Food Bank experienced about a 60% increase in distribution and as we close out April, that went up to 80%. So you can imagine doubling what you do in a month's time," said Julie Butner, president and CEO of TAFB. “We have brand new community members who have never had to use her services before that have recently been laid off or furloughed. And they don’t know where to go. So they don’t realize that Tarrant Area Food Bank is a distribution center and that we have 350 pantry partners out in the community that actually serve the community.”
Here's how it works: Using CCFW’s Community Care Center, volunteers have access to TAFB’s software system to navigate all local food pantries and mobile events through an interactive map. When someone calls for help, that volunteer can identify the nearest food sources in real-time.
If the person is disabled or sick and they don't have someone who can pick up food for them, Catholic Charities will personally deliver a 25-pound box of TAFB food directly to the home.
People who need food can call CCFW’s mainline at 817-534-0814, option 1 anytime between 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. Monday through Friday
Delivery is available for those in need who live in the following counties: Tarrant, Johnson, Denton, Wise, Parker, Hood, Erath, Palo Pinto, Cooke, Hill, Bosque, Hamilton and Somervell.
You can also go to www.tafb.org and click on the "Find Food" button at the top right of the screen.
The organizations plan to keep this call center up and running for as long as possible.
“The food bank ebbs and flows with the economy," said Butner. "And so until the economic recovery is fully in place, which experts are now predicting 18 to 24 months, we will continue to see this increased volume of need.”