Feeding the Hungry in a Global Pandemic
July 17, 2020
When the leaders of El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank applied for a grant from TMF, they envisioned those dollars helping them open a Food FARMacy, where doctors and nurses could send their low-income patients with food-related illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Since El Paso has some of the highest rates of adults living with diabetes in the United States, the Food Pharmacy would make an incredible difference to their community. TMF believed in their vision so much, we eagerly gave them a grant.
COVID-19 changed those plans, however. Suddenly, senior citizen centers were shuttering, schools were closing, and unemployment numbers were rising in El Paso. People were struggling to feed their children and the youngest food bank in America was poised to bridge the gap.
In 2019, this organization had its third birthday and distributed 15.5 million pounds of food. In 2020, they are currently distributing at a 180 million pounds annualized rate as a result of the pandemic. Before COVID-19, they worked with 182 schools, 132 food pantries, and more. They were doing innovative work with mobile distributions, taking trucks of food, and setting up farmer’s markets so families could choose healthy food for themselves.
Now, they are doing drive-thru food distribution. Initially, 3,000 cars would come through their line for help each day. That number has grown to 8,500. Even with a daily combination of staff, volunteers, and National Guard members totaling at least 200 people, feeding so many families has been difficult.
While most food banks have a great deal of nonperishable food in reserve, because El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank is so young, they went through their nonperishable supply in ten days. Transitioning to fresh food worked for a while, but as the food chain became more disrupted and transportation became more unreliable, with 40% of their contracts broken, they had to be creative in how they approached this crisis.
They began working with restaurant distribution options, which gave them access to food, but in quantities that were not appropriate for families. For instance, they have been working overtime to break down 2,000 pound bags of potatoes delivered 42,000 pounds at a time into family-sized portions. It is a great deal of manual labor, but it has also been an effective solution to feed 8,500 families a day.
“We want to create the food bank that El Paso deserves,” CEO Susan Goodell shared. “I think it is incredible that TMF made it possible for us to receive this grant early as a result of the pandemic and that we were given flexibility to use it where it was most needed. This grant elevates our profile and the work we do. Finding funding in a poor community can be difficult, so this grant has been a blessing.”
The true blessing, however, is that TMF has the opportunity to walk alongside organizations like El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, organizations that are feeding the hungry in the most unexpected and difficult circumstances. We are grateful that Susan and her team have committed themselves to changing their community through creative problem-solving. We have no doubt they will continue to create the food bank El Paso deserves.
See more photos from El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank here.
You can support TMF’s Grant Ministry by giving to our COVID-19 Response Fund, which will assist nonprofits like El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank. If you have questions about TMF grants, you can contact Jacki Lammert at firstname.lastname@example.org | 713-899-1973.