AUSTIN (KXAN) — Free food means long lines and incredible need.

“I expected to be here at 8:30 and I got here to 9, and I’ve been waiting. It’s 10 o’clock now. I’ve been waiting an hour,” Tonya Pennie said. She is one of the hundreds who waited in line at the LBJ Early College High School to receive boxes of food from the Central Texas Food Bank.

But she says it’s worth it.

“Just being cautious,” Pennie said. “We’re all in this together. We’re all suffering. This is affecting everybody.”

Juan Benavides agrees. He sat in his truck a few lines over from Pennie. He’s here for his family.

“It helps a lot because of my family. For right now, what is going on right now. It helps us when spending on food,” Benavides.

Extra money saved in his pocket to use for other means, as well as more food. Even hope.

“It helps because sometimes you don’t have money [to spend]. This portion, it helps extend to get more. More money and everything.”

‘I’m happy that we’re able to be here’

The long lines also mean a lot to the Central Texas Food Bank. Multiple volunteers showed up to help distribute boxes of food. The “simply unprecedented” need is there more than ever, but the food bank can deliver on it’s promise to feed the hungry with the support they’ve received.

“Thanks to the community in supporting us and our donors, we’ve been able to continue to supply or help our friends and neighbors get something to eat, get food on their tables,” said Derrick Chubbs, CEO and President of Central Texas Food Bank.

The food bank saw more than a 200% increase in Travis County alone, which “equates to about an additional 2,200 Central Texans, or Austinites for that matter, that are in need,” Chubbs said. “So many of them are here for the first time.”

For Chubbs, it means everything to help. He directed traffic while wearing a mask and saw folks out as they left with their food.

“There’s no better feeling than the opportunity to be on the frontlines and making a difference,” Chubbs said. “That’s why I’m here, that’s why everyone you see out here is here… No one should be hungry [in Central Texas].”

And the food bank is up for the long haul.

“We’re prepared for 2,500 households today,” Chubbs said. “So multiply that by 3.1, then that’s a considerable number of individuals that we’re prepared to feed here.”

Preparation providing hope for those waiting.

“Oh yeah, it’s not bleak. It’s tight, it’s difficult. It’s different and difficult, but we’re all in this together,” Pennie said.

In case you missed today’s mobile food drive, more are planned for the coming weeks:

  • Rockdale, Texas — Thursday, April 16, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
  • Kyle, Texas — Saturday, April 18, 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.
  • Del Valle High School — Monday, April 20, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • Creedmoor Elementary — Tuesday, April 21, 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
  • San Saba, Texas — Wednesday, April 22, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
  • Bartlett High School — Thursday, April 23, 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
  • Cedar Park, Texas — Saturday, April 25, 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

You can donate to the food bank on the KXAN website.