Soup for you! Bastrop pastor adapts to give back during tough times

Coronavirus

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — When you can’t open a door, open a gazebo.

A pastor in rural Bastrop County is still serving those in need during the new coronavirus outbreak, turning his soup kitchen into a drive-thru.

Pastor Roland Nava, who’s been building mini-shelters for families experiencing homelessness on his property that also includes his Open Door Soup Kitchen, was forced to make the adjustment because of increasingly-strict limits on how many people can gather in one place.

drive through soup kitchen
A volunteer hands a bag of free meals to a woman who came through the Open Door Soup Kitchen’s drive-thru on Friday, March 20, 2020. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

“More kids were coming in because of spring break already, so our numbers were going up,” he said. “Instead of telling people that they could not come in, we decided to go ahead and go to the drive-thru system.”

Since starting the new system last week, Nava said his team has been serving 50-60 people a day, and now they’re running low on to-go containers and prepackaged plastic silverware. He’s accepting donations here to keep the service running.

Instead of sit-down service inside for breakfast and lunch, Nava shortened his serving time to a few hours midday. He also converted a gazebo he built as a bus stop on a Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) route into a pickup window to deliver meals to those in need while maintaining the social distancing health officials say is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“Regardless of this virus that’s running around,” he said, “we believe that everybody still has needs.”

Bastrop ISD free meals

Bastrop ISD is stepping in starting Monday to take care of its students who rely on free or reduced breakfast and lunch during the extended school closures.

The district will offer curbside pickup for both breakfast and lunch to any student under 18 between 7:30 a.m. and noon at five locations: Bastrop High School, Cedar Creek Intermediate School and Bluebonnet, Lost Pines and Red Rock elementary schools.

bastrop high school sign
Bastrop High School is one of five curbside meal pickup locations for Bastrop ISD students starting Monday, March 23, 2020. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

BISD joins Austin ISD and Hays CISD on the list of school districts offering free meals to students in need during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Because this situation is unprecedented, we aren’t certain about the number of parents who will take advantage of this feeding program,” a Bastrop ISD spokesperson wrote in announcing the service. “We ask for your patience as we navigate this situation along with you.”

A new normal

Bastrop County, which reported its first coronavirus case over the weekend, doesn’t have as many options as larger counties or cities to provide food for families in need, Nava said. He knows of a handful of organizations that are doing the work, but “that’s still not enough for the amount of people that are in Bastrop County.”

That’s why he’s going to make sure his soup kitchen drive-thru remains open amid the new normal the pandemic has created for him.

Whether it’s two weeks or six, he said, “I’m going to keep operating like this until everything gets back to the way it should be.”

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