Rural Southern communities experience hunger at a much higher rate than their urban counterparts. The state of Texas’ rate in particular is statistically higher than the national average. Rural families experience hunger at a higher rate due to the challenges associated with living remotely: lack of transportation and access to healthy foods. This forces families to shop at convenience stores which carry little to no produce. The financial gap, limited access to fresh produce, and lack of resources leads to hunger; poor nutrition; increased risk of chronic disease like diabetes; poorer mental health; and behavioral and academic barriers in children (Feeding Texas Hunger Atlas 2014).
The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry and Support Center strives to eliminate food insecurity in Bastrop County where 10,535 people endure hunger daily (Map the Meal Gap, Feeding America 2016). Low-income Bastrop residents experience a 22% gap between what they can afford and what they need. The Pantry acts as the first and sometimes only line of defense against food insecurity for the community. In a given year the Pantry serves 2,000 individuals with Emergency Food Assistance. The majority of clients, 66%, need only a one time emergency assistance, while the remainder needs assistance two or more times.
The Emergency Food Assistance program provides a holistic approach to helping families experiencing natural disasters; the loss of a home, family member, or employment; a major health set-back; and other life changing events. It’s a unique program in that it provides the households seeking assistance with emergency food more frequently and in larger quantities than traditional pantries. The Pantry believes in providing families with enough nutritious food that will help them in their time of need versus using a model that gives enough food for a few days, and then people leave with the fear of running out in a few days. Families can receive 30 days of food for 30 days as well as weekly monthly access to fresh foods. The Pantry staff then work with them to apply for assistance and match them with other local resources to help them overcome their temporary setback. Since its inception, the Food Pantry has become a multi-service agency, committed to providing comprehensive services to those in need.
The Food Pantry served 3,574 clients received 334,774 pounds of food (401,728 meals) in 2019. They also provided information and referral to 333 individuals, senior activities to 70 seniors, out-of-school time food for 142 school aged children, and 30 individuals received emergency utility assistance to prevent shut-offs.