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Food Bank receives more than 20,000 pounds of food from H-E-B (w/video)

By Carolina Astrain
Dec. 2, 2013 at 6:02 a.m.
Updated Dec. 3, 2013 at 6:03 a.m.

Pallets of food items stacked up three levels high tower above Chuck Lambert, a volunteer at the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent. Lambert visited Central America with a Faith Family Church outreach program and was moved by the experience.

BY THE NUMBERS

Here's a look at food insecurity population rates from 2011 in counties served by the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent:

• 13.5 percent - Goliad

• 13.6 percent - Lavaca

• 14.0 percent - Refugio

• 14.6 percent - Jackson

• 15.2 percent - DeWitt

• 15.7 percent - Victoria

• 16.0 percent - Colorado

• 16.2 percent - Calhoun

• 16.5 percent - Gonzales

• 18.0 percent - Wharton

• 19.9 percent - Matagorda

Source: Feeding America, Map the Meal Gap study

Chuck Lambert, 64, was repacking beans when a truckload arrived at the food bank Monday morning.

"What are we getting this time?" the food bank volunteer thought to himself.

As he inched closer for a look, Lambert noticed the delivery was made up of corn flakes and instant mashed potatoes.

"It's a curiosity factor for me when we get a truckload like that," Lambert said. "It's nice to know what we're getting and that our community partners are supporting our efforts."

More than 20,000 pounds of corn flakes and mashed potatoes were donated to the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent through H-E-B's Food Bank Assistance Program.

The program seeks to provide holiday relief to hungry families in the area, said Robin Cadle, the food bank's executive director.

"H-E-B is by far the biggest contributor we have," Cadle said. "They drop off a shipment every month - this is a bonus."

This year's holiday shipment came with a different type of starch, said Ruben Velasquez, the food bank's senior director of operations.

"Usually, it's just cereal," Velasquez said. "In our case, it works out well because we can combine the mashed potatoes and cereal into our rescue boxes; that way, you can use the cereal for breakfast and the potatoes for dinner."

The local drop-off was part of a statewide effort by H-E-B, spread across 16 different food banks, each affiliated with Feeding America, a domestic hunger-relief organization.

A total of $500,000 in corn flakes and mashed potatoes will be distributed to food banks during a nine-day period through Dec. 11, according to a news release.

"It's extremely important that donations like these keep happening," Lambert said. "Jobs are getting tighter, prices have gone up, and people have less to spend at the grocery store."

Cadle echoed Lambert's sentiments.

"With the food stamp cuts, people are getting less money to buy food with," Cadle said. "Because of the way we leverage our money, an individual cannot get as much as we do in bulk."

The food bank is usually able to buy items in bulk 10 to 15 percent cheaper than local pantries can get them at, Velasquez said.

Over the last three quarters, demand for food donations by local pantries has gone up by 10 percent, he said.

"We're re-calibrating the way we work with our agencies," Velasquez said. "Using an online order system has made a difference."

The names of area corporations and schools that have volunteered at the food bank were scribbled across a white dry erase board inside the warehouse.

As Lambert stared at rows of boxed food, the twice-a-week volunteer smiled.

"It's a commitment," he said. "But I know I need to be here."

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