The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on hunger in North Texas and beyond.
Organizations like the North Texas Food Bank, the Tarrant Area Food Bank, and other church and service groups, have put on regular, large-scale free food giveaway events dating back to the spring and the beginning of the statewide shutdown meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The economic fallout from the shutdown resulted in millions of Texans being out of work. Even after weeks of job gains, the unemployment rate in Texas stood at 8.6% at the beginning of July, according to statistics released by the federal government.
Many of those facing hunger are new to the prospect. As many as four in 10 of visitors to food banks in recent weeks are seeking food assistance for the first time, according to the nonprofit Feeding America.
“The line just tells us that the need is still great, and we know that this is going to be a long-term issue,” said Valerie Hawthorne, of the North Texas Food Bank, during a recent drive-thru food giveaway at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie.
Hawthorne stressed that she is concerned the lines will only continue to grow in the coming weeks. The pandemic-specific $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits that people have been receiving is set to expire at the end of July. The average unemployment recipient in Texas receives $246 a week.
And with the growing surge of coronavirus cases trending in the wrong direction, Hawthorne said that she fears what impact any future economic shutdown could have on the need that organizations like hers are already working to meet.
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“It would go back to our May response. Longer lines. More cars. More need. More food,” Hawthorne said. “Luckily we have this process figured out, but a few of our distributions ran out of food, multiple times [this past] week.”