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Central Texas Food Bank faces a critical need for volunteers this holiday season

Multiple packages of bottled water are seen with a minivan in the background along with a semi-truck with the words "Fill their table" on it. The water was part of a mass food and water distribution event organized by the Central Texas Food Bank at Del Valle High School in Del Valle, Texas following a winter storm in February 2021.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
The Central Texas Food Bank said it needs volunteers and monetary donations ahead of the holiday season.

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Ahead of the holiday season, the Central Texas Food Bank is in critical need of volunteers.

The shortage of helpers comes just as the organization ramps up its efforts ahead of the holiday season, and as it prepares for another year of increased need for food assistance.

Every year the organization hands out millions of meals to the community, serving 21 counties in the region — including Travis County.

Mark Jackson, the chief development officer for the food bank, helps recruit volunteers. He said those who give their time are critical to the organization’s operations and mission, and right now, they are needed more than ever.

Jackson said a call for volunteers last week filled several shifts, but there are still some gaps in the schedule at the warehouse over the next several weeks.

“We do get a lot of donated product, and it needs to be inspected and sorted and cleaned and make sure that it's safe for the public consumption,” he said. “There is so much incredible good food, but it often comes mixed in with other food that needs to be discarded, and so that’s a critical component.”

Volunteers also help with the organization’s mobile food pantry, where the nonprofit feeds families across the region. While there are a lot of mobile pantries in Austin, there are several shifts that are needed in the outskirts of towns like Mexia, which is about a 2.5-hour drive from Austin.

“We’d love it if some of our neighbors in the Austin [metro statistical area] would explore some of those opportunities, and maybe get some folks together and make a day trip out of it,” Johnson said. “Heading out to see a different part of the region that they maybe haven't been to and to help out some neighbors in the more rural areas.”

Volunteers are just one piece of the puzzle

Johnson said there has been an increase in requested help from families, which he said might be due to the reduction of SNAP benefits that were available during the pandemic. Inflation on goods at grocery stores is also taking a toll on family budgets, he said.

“We are currently seeing the same number, if not more, of people seeking services that we saw at the peak of the pandemic,” he said.

Volunteering might not be possible for everyone, but Johnson said monetary donations can go a long way.

Currently, the organization is spending a lot more money — around $1 million a month — than it has in the past to feed families. Even with that increase in spending, Johnson said, the organization is falling short of meeting the need by about 25%.

“Monetary donations are incredibly critical year-round,” he said. “We are hoping to inspire a lot of folks to invest in us, so we can make this happen through the holiday season but into the new year as well.”

Johnson said he hopes people will get involved beyond the holidays because the problem persists year-round.

“We often see a precipitous drop off in volunteering in January and February,” he said. “We hope people will keep us on their radar into the New Year when we will still have just as much need and still distribute so much food, and when we still need people to help us make that happen.”

To find out more about how to give back visit www.centraltexasfoodbank.org.

Luz Moreno-Lozano is the Austin City Hall reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at lmorenolozano@kut.org. Follow her on X @LuzMorenoLozano.
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