Thousands of people have lined up at a Texas food bank, with cars stretching for a mile as the state struggles with being the third worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Fair Park in Dallas County held its fourth food drive since the pandemic was declared in March but the event on Tuesday was the first mega distribution that offered an option for several hundred walk-up clients without transportation.
People traveled from the other side of the state to reach the North Texas Food Bank which fed 1,710 families.
‘I actually live in West Dallas. But I came this far just to get the help,’ Rene Hightower told CBS Dallas.
Images show vehicles weaving through parking lots as over 90 volunteers got to work distributing 10,000 boxes to feed 8,000 people.
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Cars lineup to get food during the North Teas Food Bank’s fourth free food distribution at Fair Park in Dallas on Tuesday
Fair Park in Dallas held its fourth food drive since the pandemic was declared in March and the event on Tuesday and North Texas Food Bank fed 1,710 families
The desperate long lines have emerged after almost 30 million Americans said in a census of 249 million respondents last month said that at some point before July 21 they didn’t have enough to eat
Images show vehicles weaving through parking lots as over 90 volunteers got to work distributing 10,000 boxes
Rice and pasta filled boxes as well as canned goods donated by Texans as families struggle to put food on the table
The desperate long lines have emerged after almost 30 million Americans (about 12%) said in a census of 249 million respondents last month said that at some point before July 21 they didn’t have enough to eat and about 5.4 million said they ‘often’ didn’t have enough.
And they come against a backdrop of record unemployment figures.
The number of continuing unemployment claims nationwide, including people receiving non-traditional benefits such as gig workers, was revealed on Thursday as being 28 million, down slightly from 31 million the week before.
New weekly claims for unemployment benefits fell below one million for the first time in five months.
Dallas County has recorded 55,787 cases of coronavirus and 794 deaths. In Texas there are 524,814 cases and 9,552 deaths. The positivity rate in Texas is 24.5 percent – the highest since the start of the pandemic.
Testing in Texas has dropped to its lowest level since June, with fewer than 35,000 new tests taken on Wednesday. Texas reported 6,200 new cases on Wednesday, down significantly from its peak in mid-July when there were several days with more than 10,000 new cases.
Toby Overstreet of Dallas grabs a box of food as he makes his way through the walk-up line of the North Teas Food Bank
A volunteer is seen loading milk into the trunk of someone’s car as the third worst affected state by coronavirus struggles
It was their first mega distribution that offered an option for several hundred walk-up clients without transportation. About 70 walk-ups were served
Despite unemployment improving, the organizers said they ultimately haven’t seen a decrease in the need for nutritious food because of the cut to benefits
New claims for jobless benefits dropped below one million for the first time since March
Food recipients joined the line before dawn, hours before the drive opened.
The offerings included dairy, canned goods, noodles, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, rice, trail mix and some recipe ideas.
One man came after his daughter heard about the event on the news and passed on the information.
‘If it wasn’t for this, we’d probably go hungry,’ Richard Archer said. ‘With unemployment benefits cut, her husband’s been laid off for three months. So, it’s just been a struggle. If it wasn’t for church, and food giveaways, the kids would be going hungry.’
One woman at the food drive this week said she showed up because every dollar she can save on feeding her family, helps to avoid another crisis.
She has now taken in her daughter’s family due to money being tight.
‘There’s times I open the refrigerator and there’s little there,’ Diana King told CBS. ‘We make do with what we have and we make it stretch.’
‘It helps pay a bill, so the water doesn’t get turned off. The gas doesn’t get turned off. Mortgage? We are right there on the borderline.’
The long lines come after unemployment benefits were cut from $600 to $400 this month, however in some states the figure could be reduced to $300 if the local government doesn’t fork out the $100 increment it’s recommended to provide.
Texas is below the national rate of 11.1 percent for unemployment. In June, Texas saw a decrease in the state unemployment rate to 8.6 percent after adding 243,900 private sector positions the month prior. It was second consecutive monthly decrease and the lowest rate since March.
Testing in Texas has dropped to its lowest level since June, with fewer than 35,000 new tests taken on Wednesday. Texas reported 6,200 new cases on Wednesday, down significantly from its peak in mid-July when there were several days with more than 10,000 new cases
Dallas County, where the food bank was located, has recorded 55,787 cases of coronavirus and 794 deaths
Some people said they were trying to save on grocery costs to avoid a crisis elsewhere amid the coronavirus pandemic
One person said she had driven from across the city to get some help with feeding her family due to benefits cut
Recipients are required to fill out a short form with the income and the Director of Governmental Relations with the North Texas Food Bank said many had no income
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Thursday said he expects the nationwide unemployment rate to return to single-digit levels as early as this month and growth in the third quarter should be 20 percent or more as the economy recovers from the recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘The key point that I would make is the economy is rebounding, it looks like a V-shaped recovery and the recent news now is even better than it was a month ago,’ Kudlow said in a virtual appearance at a conference hosted by the Council of the Americas.
Despite unemployment rates improving, the food bank organizers said they ultimately haven’t seen a decrease in the need for nutritious food because of the benefits that expired in July.
‘When stimulus checks hit, we saw a decrease,’ Valerie Hawthorne, Director of Governmental Relations with the North Texas Food Bank, said. ‘But with unemployment insurance benefits running out, we’ve seen the need increase.
‘Anytime you have an economic crises, you’re going to have a food crisis.
‘It’s very easy to compromise on food and nutrition: got to make that rent payment, got to make that car payment. So that’s why we are out here today. so we can help folks.’
Recipients are required to fill out a short form with the income.
‘We’ve seen a lot of zeros,’ she told CNN. ‘Food is one of those items that is easy to cut from a budget. You’ve got to make your mortgage payments. You’ve got to make that car payment, so food becomes a choice for a lot of families.’
Overall, the effort was deemed a success as families avoid the hours-long wait that has been seen at food drives across the country.
Food insecurity is only set to worsen due to the pandemic. Prior to March it was estimated that 37 million faced food insecurity but Feeding America predicts the figure will hit 54.3 million by July 2021.
Katie Fitzgerald, COO of Feeding America, said food bank demand has increased by 50 percent since the pandemic. She told CNN food insecurity affects people of color, women, children, seniors and those with disabilities the worst.
Now organizers are urging people to donate money to help them continue their work.
‘We want the North Texas Food Bank to be a success,’ Brian Luallen, Executive Director of Fair Park First, said. ‘We provide logistics and structure. They are doing the heavy lifting, distributing over 100 pounds of food to each family, and it’s critical they get the donations needed to keep doing good work in the community.’
There are now more than 5.2million coronavirus cases nationwide and more than 166,000 deaths.