Houston Food Bank urgently needs donations

HOUSTON The Houston Food Bank says it is distributing more food than ever before and it is still having trouble keeping up with the growing demand for help.

This is not just an appeal for food donations during the holidays, this is a growing problem that's expected to last months if not longer. A recent survey of the Houston Food Bank's partner agencies, which include food pantries, showed that two-thirds had experienced a 50 percent increase in demand over the past year.

More and more families in our area are falling on hard times because of the recession and they are turning to food pantries in greater numbers. The demand is growing so fast, it's getting harder and harder for the Houston Food Bank to keep up with it.

At Target Hunger, a local food pantry and partner of the Houston Food Bank, the demand for assistance is growing at an alarming rate - it's up by more than 30 percent over the past year and is showing no signs of slowing down.

"The resources, the donations, also the food supply, it's not keeping up with the people that are coming in," said Clara Cooper of Target Hunger.

Clara Cooper with Target Hunger says they've also seen a dramatic increase in first-time clients, or what they call emergency clients, who are desperately trying to make ends meet.

Dave Beegle with Impact Houston said the organization has seen an exponential increase in demand for food. Beegle said in 2007, they served about 67,000 meals and this year they are expecting to serve more than 420,000.

What's more, they are seeing folks who've never needed help before. Take Jesus Trancito. He was barely making enough to pay his rent while he was working, but when he got laid off he could no longer afford to put food on the table.

"I had to put my pride aside, came in here and talked to these beautiful wonderful people and they said hey, you know what, bienvenidos, welcome, mi amigo, attack your hunger, we're gonna help you out," Trancito said.

The majority of people in need are on a fixed income, disabled or elderly. Nearly 10,000 people are helped each month, but that number is expected to grow to more than 13,000 per month.

"It was hard. Sometimes I didn't have anything. I went to bed hungry; I didn't have any food," said Daisy Patterson. "Since I signed in this program, I'm better off. We come here and it helped me survive with the food I get; it helped me and my son."

The number is staggering. Right now, an estimated 4,200 Houston area kids go hungry each day. That figure will likely worsen as more and more charities struggle to stay ahead of the increasing demand for food.

To combat the growing need, the Houston Food Bank will work with its partner agencies in the coming weeks to develop new strategies for making the best use of available resources. So many families in the Houston area depend on it.

The Houston Food Bank does more than just distribute food. They also help people get back on their feet by offering job training and nutrition education.

Texas has the second highest rate of food insecurity in the nation. More than 17 percent of the state's population are uncertain whether they'll be able to put food on the table tomorrow.

The Houston Food Bank will accept donations of either food or money. For more information, visit houstonfoodbank.org.

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