AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Central Texas Food Bank is experiencing a spike in first-time clients during the coronavirus pandemic, facing an 86% growth from March to April.
“Our need spiked in a big way in this community, and the number of people coming to our distributions skyrocketed,” said Mark Jackson, the food bank’s chief development officer.
At present, donations this year have surpassed the total raised in 2019. In April, donations were 10 times higher than in years past. However, in the same month, the need was 57% greater than last April. The increase in donations is only helping the food bank keep up with the growing demand.
“On average, we were spending about an average of $25,000 a week to supplement food,” Jackson said. “Now, we’re spending about $200,000 a week.”
First-time client Jessica Haws-Mackey said she never anticipated turning to the food bank for assistance until the coronavirus pandemic began to change her life.
“It did start to have an impact,” she said. “The hours started changing at my job, so I wasn’t making as much as I used to make.”
The working mother-of-five said there were times she was already struggling to keep food on the table before the pandemic. She said the reduction in work hours and the school closures did not help.
When Haws-Mackey would face tough times she said she used to think, “We can eat beans and tortillas, we’ll be fine.”
For a long time, she hesitated to seek help saying, “I guess I felt ashamed because I thought, ‘I can do this,’ but I also thought, ‘I do need the help.'”
When Haws-Mackey showed up to the drive-thru food distribution in March, she saw the long lines of cars and realized she was not alone.
“At least I know I am not by myself, struggling, trying to make ends meet,” she said.
Haws-Mackey was shocked at the amount of food she received. Food donations included frozen meat, peanut butter, canned vegetables, powdered milk and beans.
“Those were big packs of chicken,” she said.
She’s thankful for the community’s generosity.
Food bank leaders are in the midst of tallying up the numbers from April. At present, the charity has served more than 93,000 families and more than 300,000 people in a 21-county area. In Travis County, the Food Bank served more than 35,000 families and more than 126,000 people.
The food bank is holding another drive-thru distribution event beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday at Nelson Field, 7105 Berkman Drive.