By Rosemary Marin
Two weeks ago, the unemployment rate in El Paso hit a historic high of 15 percent. Since COVID-19 began in our region, more than 50,000 people have filed unemployment claims, while hundreds of thousands are facing furloughs, reduced hours, and financial strains as the pandemic continues to impact our community.
The financial impact of this pandemic has amplified another issue we are tackling in our community: food insecurity. As families have lost their jobs or seen their paychecks reduced, they are having to make difficult decisions, such as choosing between paying rent and utilities or buying groceries to put food on their tables.
The El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, with leadership from great people like Board Chair Stuart Schwartz, has played a key role in this fight, including through its partnership with the Paul L. Foster Foundation, the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation, and the MountainStar Sports Group Foundation, which established a $1 million matching grant to feed families in need.
Following the grant announcement, the El Paso community raised a total of $2 million, which is going directly towards feeding families in the Borderplex region. I would like to thank Woody and Josh Hunt, Paul Foster, and Alan Ledford for their leadership in this tremendous effort.
Although these generous donations have provided the Food Bank with much-needed resources to continue their work, it is crucial that we do not let our guard down. I have witnessed the long lines of cars that go for miles, with many volunteers working tirelessly to ensure that emergency food boxes are timely delivered and remain accessible.
Primary funding and donations have allowed the food bank to distribute up to 11,000 food boxes daily at its five drive-through distribution centers; however, the need for food in our region is still immense, and it does not show any signs of slowing down. Continued donations will ensure that our food bank remains fully functional to provide this critical service to our community.
To ignite a new movement of fundraising for the food bank, I was recently honored to announce a new $100,000 donation on behalf of Community en Acción, as part of a new $600,000 fundraising challenge to ensure that families across West Texas continue to receive the help they need.
Community en Acción is a non-profit organization of Hispanic business leaders who work to promote the cultural, educational, social and economic well-being of all our Latino community. We have committed ourselves to help the Food Bank during this economic setback, but we are asking the entire community to come together to help.
On behalf of CEA, I challenge all business owners and community leaders in the region to come together and answer this critical call. It is essential to our community and our economy that families have access to resources that will help them – help us all – overcome the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each dollar that you donate provides seven meals, so a $1,000 donation provides 7,000 meals. That’s a significant impact you can have on a significant problem.
Donate your time and or money to the food bank. I have seen El Paso rally together many times before and I know we can do it again.
Rosemary Marin is board chair of Community en Acción.
Cover photo: Volunteers load food boxes at a West Side distribution site for El Pasoans Fighting Hunger. (Photo by Raenee Young)