By Susan Goodell
El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank has undertaken the task of feeding every single hungry El Pasoan, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. As the weeks went on, it became clear that the need was only going to continue increasing … exponentially.
Here and now, this task is nothing short of monumental. Part of the growing problem was that while the EPFH and drive-through sites began ramping up distributions, there was a population of people with health and mobility issues preventing them from accessing these resources to obtain the food they needed to weather the storm.
In May, EPFH and its partners at the Lyft Texas rideshare service joined forces to deliver food to these homes. By the end of that month, 110 households were on the waiting list and that list was growing. By the third week of the program, 800 deliveries were being made each week and today, a little over 1,300 meals are delivered in one week.
Lyft has increased its delivery efforts and EPFH volunteers supplement this much- needed service, which meant more people were being served. But while more deliveries are being made, more of our neighbors are seeking assistance from the program.
The waitlist remains with an average of 200 to 250 people weekly; 78 percent of those are seniors over the age of 60.
Working to meet the hunger needs of the homebound
In recent weeks, El Paso County has seen new positive cases of COVID-19 increase by the thousands; the month of July saw a 107 percent increase from the previous month.
One of the significant effects of this is being felt in the rural areas and areas south of Interstate 10. Many of these neighborhoods experience limited access to food resources; this issue is further exacerbated by barriers to transportation as many of our neighbors in the rural areas of the community do not have adequate access to public transportation.
Even in instances where public transportation is available, pandemic-related limitations of the public transit system could present additional challenges to riders.
As the virus took hold of the community, a new hunger crisis presented itself, taking direct aim at the thousands of El Pasosans whose active case status requires isolating themselves in their homes until they have recovered. One in four of the daily applications received by the EPFH Home Delivery Program are from households with positive COVID-19 cases.
This has left a portion of this population with limited choices in obtaining the food they need; some are either living under the poverty line, others have found themselves out of work without sufficient funds to purchase food, and still others do not have access to or simply cannot afford online grocery/meal delivery options.
Again, EPFH is answering the call. The food bank delivers food under two categories. The first is emergency boxes to those who urgently and immediately need an infusion of food into their home. The second is placement on a weekly schedule that ensures they continue to receive life-sustaining food until it is no longer needed.
How you can help
As mentioned previously, the need for this program is increasing as the effects of COVID-19 continue to take its toll on the community.
Putting the service in perspective, each food box costs EPFH $18, which includes staffing, supplies, delivery and the food itself. All told, a given household will have one weeks’ worth of food, equaling 60-80 pounds, delivered to their doors.
As community needs increase, so does the need for additional resources to keep up with demand. While we are thankful for the generosity of our partners and donors for all they do to assist EPFH in its mission to combat the region’s hunger crisis, so much more help is still needed.
The El Paso sense of community embodies the values deeply rooted in each of our residents, and beautifully represents our love for each other. There is always an opportunity to help and EPFH asks for those who can to please donate to the EPFH Home Delivery Program in order to further its efforts in bringing much needed nutrition to those who truly would go without in the circumstances we currently find ourselves in.
The food bank and this innovative program needs everyone’s help to keep it going, as we are still in the grip of COVID-19 and the end is not near.
For additional information or questions about the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank Home Delivery Program, please call 915-255-5937 or visit our website to get help or give help.
Susan Goodell is CEO of El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank.