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With National Guard’s help, North Texas Food Bank feeds thousands in 2nd major distribution at Fair Park

A total of 2,230 households were served and no vehicles were turned away the agency reports.


With assistance from the Texas National Guard, the North Texas Food Bank handed out some 6,500 free boxes of food staples in Fair Park on Thursday in one of the largest distributions conducted by the nonprofit during the pandemic to date.
The giveaway was the second of its kind in Fair Park and the food bank’s 28th drive-through event since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Thursday’s distribution was hosted by the food bank in partnership with Fair Park First, Spectra and In the City for Good.

Thousands of people were lined up when distribution began at 9 a.m. Valerie Hawthorne, director of government relations for the food bank, said some people got to Fair Park in the morning’s wee hours to claim spots up front.
Food pantries of all sizes across North Texas are seeing rising demand as more people face food insecurity during the crisis. Events such as distributions have provided the community significant relief.
“We did find that there were some folks here that arrived at 4:30 a.m.,” Hawthorne said. “They couldn’t come onto the premises, but they were parked and just sleeping in their cars. That’s the first time I’ve seen that.”
By 10 a.m., the line leading to the Fair Park gates stretched nearly 2 miles long.

Half or more of clients are new

Josh Session, 75, received food for the first time during the pandemic from CitySquare, a member of the North Texas Food Bank’s Network of Partner Agencies. Thursday’s distribution was his second time needing food assistance. The virus has upended his life, Session said, but the food bank and its partners have helped him to shift his focus to things other than food.
“The food bank has really provided enough that I’m not worried about it,” he said. “Today I got probably enough to last me a couple of weeks.”
The food bank estimates that 50% to 70% of clients it has served since the start of the pandemic are new.
Paudelia Harris, 36, was receiving services from the food bank for the first time Thursday. Harris’ story is similar to those of many who have been displaced economically by the crisis: She lost one job and her hours at another job were cut, putting pressure on her to feed her four boys.
“When they’re at school Monday through Friday, they’d get fed twice a day and come home and have a snack and dinner,” Harris said. "Now it’s breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. ... I’ve got four growing boys.”

Intake forms slow process

The food bank used a drive-through format to better adhere to social distancing requirements and to limit interactions between workers and clients. All workers, volunteers and National Guard members were required to wear gloves and masks when handling food boxes.
Each vehicle was given an intake form upon arrival at the gate, with clients required to fill out their name, address, monthly income and household size. The form is required by the Texas Emergency Food Assistance Program.
Once vehicles arrived at the distribution point, drivers were instructed to open their trunks.
Using the intake forms, North Texas Food Bank workers could then determine the number of food boxes each vehicle should receive. Two boxes, packed with dry goods and produce from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were given for every one to three people, a food bank employee said.
National Guard members, who were deployed earlier this month to help with the food bank’s efforts, helped place the kits into trunks. If a trunk couldn’t open, boxes were placed on the hood or the roof of the vehicle and the driver was told to drive about 40 feet ahead, where volunteers loaded the boxes into the backseat.

2,230 households are served

Filling out intake forms slowed down food distribution significantly during the event’s first two hours. At 11 a.m., Hawthorne received clearance from the USDA to waive the forms, allowing more people to receive food.
“Our elected officials need to know what is happening on the ground,” Hawthorne said. “We can do this in a safe manner.”
During the last hour of the event, each car received two boxes regardless of household size. The event ended shortly before 1 p.m.
According to the food bank, 2,230 households were served, with no food left over and no vehicles turned away.

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