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Food pantry sees increased need during pandemic

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    The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry delivers food boxes to at-risk Bastrop County seniors. Photos courtesy of Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry
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    Bags of fresh produce at the food pantry.

As the need to support people financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has increased since March, the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry has adapted to the challenge.

The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry (BCEFC) is still open for normal business hours: each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the first Thursday of the month by appointment. They are still continuing most of their programs, such as the Nibbles Backpack Program, which provides food to low-income, food insecure children when school feeding programs are not operating.

However, clients are no longer allowed to enter the pantry’s buildings; normally, clients are able to pick and choose the food they want, said BCEFC executive director Tresha Silva. Now, instead, families seeking assistance from the food pantry receive pre-packaged food boxes at the door in order to ensure the safety of the families and the staff at the food pantry. Additionally, the fresh produce distribution program has been cancelled for March and April because of gathering limits, and Silva said they are looking to see if it can be continued in May. “We’re definitely using a streamlined process for serving folks during this disaster,” Silva said. “We are open and we are here. We are just doing it in a different fashion, and we are being mindful of social distancing.”

Additionally, BCEFP is working with the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team to have volunteers deliver boxes of food to seniors at home. This keeps the seniors, who could be at a high risk of getting ill from COVID-19, at home.

According to Silva, BCEFP has seen an overall 39 percent increase in people seeking assistance. When looking at the period starting at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Central Texas in March, the food pantry has seen an increase of 80 percent.

“Just like you see all over the news where there are lines of people at food banks,” Silva said, “our food pantry hasn’t been on the news, but we have lines.

Silva said people who were already living in a food insecure position are having a harder time getting the groceries they need as the shelves at the grocery stores are emptied. Additionally, so many people come to the food pantry for assistance because they have been laid off due to the virus.

“Because unemployment has been such an issue for people to access, with so many people being out of work, a lot of them are taking whatever resources they have to manage the bills that they have to pay,” Silva said. “So, purchasing food has taken a back burner.”

Silva said the food pantry has seen a drop in volunteers, since many of their volunteers are seniors themselves. She added that people can help by making monetary donations to the food pantry through their website at www.bastropfoodpantry.org.

“We are here, and we are open, and we are still able to assist this county as a whole,” Silva said.