The COVID-19 pandemic has more families in need this holiday season.
Local food banks and charities have been well stocked throughout the pandemic, but will that continue come January?
The Coastal Bend Food Bank started its distribution event on Tuesday with enough food for 500 families. Less than a couple of hours later, all the food had been handed out.
Mary Gonzalez was one of those in line, even though she hadn’t been to a food bank before March.
“Not before the pandemic, no,” she said.
Gonzalez, who lost her mother and two sisters to the Coronavirus in September, says in these tough times, being able to count on the food bank has been an answered prayer.
“We have become more at-home people so we get to cook more and sometimes the funds are not there,” said Gonzalez.
She isn’t the only one who’s needed help.
“We have seen an increase of about 30 percent,” said Coastal Bend Food Bank development coordinator Robert Morales.
Morales says the food bank would have struggled meeting the demand without the CARES Act, which funds several food programs, including the Farms to Families Food Boxes.
“We see how much difference it’s made during these hard times for the families,” said Fernando Ramirez, pastor of Casa de Dios.
Casa de Dios is one of several local churches using the Farms to Families program, which has allowed Ramirez to help an extra 2,000 families a month.
“We have people constantly calling to ask when we’re going to get the boxes again,” said Ramirez. “It’s a big benefit for them.”
CARES Act funding runs out at the end of the year, leaving several programs in jeopardy. One local lawmaker is calling for the relief provided by the bill to continue into next year.
“The Farms to Families Food Boxes program allows farmers to supply food to regional and local distributors," said Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX27) in a written statement. "In turn, these boxes are given to families in need through food banks and nonprofits. I applaud the creation of this program and thank our farmers for the work they’ve done to feed households across the country. I continue to urge House leadership to bring bipartisan legislation to the House floor for a vote in order to provide relief to American families.”
Despite the impending deadline the food bank isn’t worried.
“Regardless of what happens with the future of the CARES Act, we’re still going to do our job, which is to reduce hunger,” said Morales.