North Texas food banks still experiencing record-high demand one year into pandemic

Food banks have been experiencing record-high demand for nearly a year now, and that demand shows no sign of slowing down.

Many North Texans are still out of work due to the pandemic. Food banks are helping those folks while feeding their everyday clients.

Many food recipients have never had to ask for help before. Food banks and feeding partners are adding mobile distribution sites and expanding their operation in order to meet the need.

Food donations from retail partners are helping to balance the budget.

It was a big day for the Network of Community Ministries and the people they serve. The Richardson nonprofit broke ground on a new 50,000 square foot facility.

CEO Cindy Shafer says there's been a dramatic increase in demand for services largely due to the economic fallout from the pandemic.

"We are marking this occasion by serving our neighbors with the mobile food pantry. It's just what we do," she said.

Since March of 2020, Network has increased food distributions by 600%. The North Texas Food Bank provides the organization with a lot of food, which services 14 zips codes in Dallas County.

Erica Yaeger is the NTFB’s chief external affairs officer. She says the food bank will continue to operate at elevated levels for some time.

"We are on pace to distribute 130 million meals this year through our network of feeding agencies," she said.

Yaeger says the food bank, which works with 250 feeding agencies like Network, is buying more food than ever before to meet the demand. They rely heavily on donated food from retail partners to offset the cost.

"We know the impact from the pandemic is going to be longstanding for those people we serve," she said.

Dr. Timothy Bray says this record-high level of demand mirrors that of the 2008 recession. He says food banks allow folks to use the limited money they have on other bills.

"Folks who never needed help before were coming to the food pantry," he said. "The food bank services help them keep their house help them keep their car their kids in the same school they've been in. So it's a really important service despite what the outer shell looks like."

In order to build that new facility, Network is immersed in a capital campaign. So far, they've raised over $3.6 million towards the $5.5 million goal. The goal is to be moved in by Labor Day.