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Hundreds of cars left Navarro Early College parking on Monday morning, while families lined up to receive food boxes -galones of milk, potato bags, packed meat-.Like many organizations that operate food banks, the non-profit organization Austin Voices (Austin voices) for education and youth changed to a Drive-Thru model during the Covid-19 Pandemic.And with many people without work due to the impact of the virus, the organization has seen how demand has shot.
"I'm here today because we need food," Gladys said, a single mother, Kut while waiting in line.(KUT publishes only the battery names of people looking for food to protect their privacy).
When the pandemic hit, Gladys lost his job in a warehouse.The schools closed, so he no longer had the daily support he had for his son, who has autism.
"Therapies and everything ceased to be available," he said."It's hard to deal with a child with special needs on your own.It really is".
He attended a nursing school, but soon realized that he could no longer juggle with classes while taking care of his son, so he stopped studying.Without a stable income and a school that gave food to his son every day, he resorted to food distributions such as Austin Voices.
In a normal year, Austin Voices operates a food pantry that serves about 80 people per week.This type of self -service now receives hundreds per week.Between 10:30 a.m.and 12:30 p.m.On Monday, Austin Voices distributed 21,000 pounds of food to 500 homes.
In November, the Food Bank of the Center of Texas, which provides food to pantries such as Austin Voices, saw a record month in terms of demand, serving 383,000 people.December is traditionally one of the busiest months for pantries or food banks, and as Covid-19 cases are fired during the holidays, the Central Food Bank of Texas says that it hopes that the need for food will only increase.The food bank and the pantries that support are concerned with maintaining the long -term demand.
"This is not going to disappear soon, just because we have a vaccine," said Derrick Chubbs, the president and general director of the Food Bank."Our data and our consultants...They tell us that we must wait for these high levels throughout 2021, until well entered 2022 and then, in the worst case, perhaps until 2023 ".
The Central Food Bank of Texas has spent millions of dollars and distributing millions of more food pounds this year than normal.
Chubbs estimates that the Food Bank is still 30% below the demand in its 21 -standing service area.
"We know that there are people who are affected," he said."We know that there are areas where we would like to be able to do more, but we do not necessarily have the logistics capacity to do so.".
"It's very difficult at this time"
Hunger in the center of Texas is nothing new.Before the pandemic, the Food Bank estimated that about 400,000 people in its service area Padaban hunger, or about 1 in 7 residents.
Now, since the pandemic has forced the closure of businesses and has led to the loss of wages, many are using food distribution for the first time.The Food Bank estimates that 560,000 Texas Center.The situation is more serious in the case of children: he says that approximately 1 in 3.5 children in the area runs the risk of hunger.
The loss of wages is a common issue among many of those who come to the weekly food distribution of Lade San Vicente de Paul in Northern Austin, says its executive director Roz Gutiérrez.
"Not everyone who is here is unemployed, but many people have their reduced hours," Gutiérrez said."They have to choose between paying the light account or having food on the table".
The entity organizes a distribution of food without prior appointment every Saturday from 9 a.m..m.until noon.Since April, the demand has seen, going from serving about 150 people a week to about 300.
Until now, the organization has not had to reject anyone.Receive most of your donor food and the Central Food Bank of Texas.
"There have been many food pantryFood from San Vicente de Paul.
Cecilia was in line with her 4 -month -old baby last Saturday.He told Kut that he had already reached a moment of crisis when the pandemic hit.Born in Honduras, Cecilia said that she and her three children were kidnapped in Mexico, and that she was abused there.They arrived in Austin about five months ago, he said, without clothes or resources.Fought to find places where they could help her with her needs.
"They told me that in some places clothes were provided," he said in Spanish."But due to pandemic, many places have canceled everything".
Cecilia said that Lade San Vicente de Paul has been helpful.
"This is a place where they give us food, which helps us a lot at home, and even more for the pandemic, and even more so if we have children," he said."It was the first place where they gave me food".
Cecilia does not have full -time job now, but she has been going with a friend to clean houses and selling food.
"It's very difficult right now, even more with children," he said.
Another woman from the row, Cathy, said she has been coming to San Vicente de Paul for clothes and supplies for a couple of years.Full -time cooking and hotel student at Austin Community College, said he has been receiving unemployment benefits and using food coupons.But when one of his checks increased due to pandemic, he was cut off food coupons.
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"Now I only receive $ 400 every two weeks and that is not even enough to pay the rent, so I come here every week," he said."If it weren't for this place, I wouldn't have food".
Cathy said that stretches the food she receives as much as she can, cooking for her and for the other women she lives in a nearby traffic home for people who have gone through rehabilitation.
"I try to cook for everyone when I do it," he said."A couple of women who worked full time, are having a bad time because they are not working so much".
A trend in demand
Local pantries say they have seen peaks in the need for food aligned with peaks in cases of COVID-19.A recent study of the Dell School of Medicine of the University of Texas also confirmed this trend.The researchers surveyed 645 families who sought attention at the CommunityCare clinics in the Austin area between April and August.Fluctuations in food insecurity rates corresponded to fluctuations in COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations.
For example, 70% of the families surveyed in July-when cases of COVID-19 reached their highest levels in Travis County-said they did not have enough food or that they worried them to run out of food.
"We found that the two curves were reflected almost exactly one to the other for COVID-19 rates and then [food insecurity was seen] local," said Megan Gray, a professor assistant in pediatrics and health of the population.Megan Gray, profesora asistente de pediatría y salud poblacional en la Escuela de Medicina de De Dell de la UT
Gray said there could be several reasons for this correlation.The patients themselves were out of work because either they got sick of COVID-19 or had to get in quarantine after coming into contact with someone who gave positive.O The workplaces were closing due to the high positive cases of cases.
Although the study did not ask about citizenship status, Gray said that many patients from CommunityCare clinics are undocumented.The study observed a greater frequency of food insecurity between Hispanic and Spanish -speaking families.
"Therefore, we are also concerned that the most vulnerable of our society cannot access the benefits funded by the Government or that they are more afraid to access the benefits funded by the Government," he said, "he said.
Chubbs explained that the Central Food Bank of Texas has also seen a correlation between cases of cases and the need for food.
"During the summer, after the initial stimulus that went out, we saw that our figures were leveled a little and even at some point they began to decrease, but then, in mid -July, they began to rise again," he said."In August they were comparable, but then in September they began to rise again".
Covid-19 cases are increasing in Travis county and throughout the state, a trend that probably continues.
"We are entering Christmas, so we hope that the peak will last a couple more months, and we hope that the need corresponds to this," said Chubbs.
Keep up with the need
The increase in demand has pushed the food bank to make adjustments.In addition to operating its usual mobile pantries (about 60 per month), it has made a substantial addition: to house eight to ten massive food distributions per month in large stations, such as the Nelson field or the Tony hamburger center.It is likely that each of them receives more than 1,000 vehicles, said Chubbs.
"Other food banks throughout the state can make one per month, so 10,000 cars reib."But we are trying to do it as often as possible to bring food to the table of those individuals".
Another obstacle to the Food Bank has been the increase in the cost of supplies.Before COVID-19, the Food Bank spent $ 100,000 a month to acquire food, said Chubbs.Now, spend 1 million dollars per month, as a result of the increase in the volume of people in need and the fact that the cost of food and the cost of transporting it have risen.
"We are literally spending 10 [times the normal amount], so our greatest request is whether they want to help our food bank, a financial donation is the best," he said.Derrick Chubbs, presidente y director ejecutivo del Banco Central de Alimentos de Texas
Food banks are concerned about food shortage during the next year, since the state and federal programs on which they depend on their end.Chubbs said that the Central Food Bank of Texas received twice the amount of food it normally receives from the United States Department of Agriculture this year and that the aid must continue or at least slowly decrease.
"We don't want to be passenger," said Chubbs."Even if they return to the levels before the COVID, we need to do so at a slow pace, not only do they turn off the switch.We need to support us and realize that this is a marathon.This is not a short race ".
Gutiérrez, from Lade San Vicente de Paúl, said she is also worried about being able to keep families, especially when eviction moratoriums come to an end.
"There is so much politicía at this time, which is very frustrating for us," he said."We see people tied to bureaucracy, which have blockages and obstacles that should not be there, and, in reality, people are not trying to take advantage.People are only trying to survive ".
Claire Mcinerny de Kut produced the audio of this story in English.
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