CUERO – Hundreds of cars snaked around Cuero High School’s Gobbler Stadium on Monday morning at Food Bank of the Golden Crescent’s second COVID-19 Food Distribution event.

Five-hundred DeWitt County families registered in advance, said Frances Santellana, the Food Bank’s Food Sourcing and Agency Relations Director. Cars began lining up at 7 a.m., three hours before distribution was scheduled to begin.

“This is a blessing,” said Cuero resident Juan Martinez, a self-employed fence builder who has been struggling to find work. “There are no jobs. We’re just trying to survive this crisis.”

Cuero Mayor Sara Post Meyer, who was volunteering in the distribution lines, said her city of 8,000 was already facing a tough economy before COVID-19 hit because of the oil and gas downturn, which has reduced local tax revenues and hotel occupancy. Meyer said she was grateful the Food Bank and local officials have worked to provide for residents in smaller communities like hers.

“We’ve been hit double-fold,” Meyer said. “We’re holding our own, but we definitely have the same concerns for restaurant owners and bar owners and retailers that you have in larger cities.”

The Food Bank has faced a 50% spike in demand since the pandemic hit and food delivery times have increased, said Robin Cadle, the food bank’s president and CEO. Her organization has worked with federal agencies, retailers like H-E-B, and local nonprofits to distribute 672,000 pounds of food in April and an estimated 800,000 pounds of food in May throughout the Crossroads.

Attendees at Monday’s event received boxes of meat, dry goods and fresh produce, as well as watermelon, bread and chips.

As residents drove through the distribution lines, many said they were stretched thin and struggling to provide for their families because of the economic downturn. Texas’s unemployment rate reached 12.8% in April, the highest rate on record, according to the Department of Labor.

Carolina Garibay, of Cuero, said she was picking up food for her six grandchildren, who typically receive breakfast and lunch at school but have been living at home since spring break. Cuero school district has continued to provide food, but Garibay’s son-in-law recently lost his job as a trucker and her daughter is also out of work, so money is tight.

Alana Sharp, site coordinator for Communities in Schools of the Golden Crescent, which helped coordinate the event, said students in DeWitt County are facing an acute need for supplies because jobless local parents are struggling to buy food and clothes.

Some people attended the distribution event on behalf of disabled or elderly friends and family. Yolanda Boone, of Cuero, borrowed a car to pick up food for two neighbors, one of whom is disabled and living with five family members in a single bedroom home, Boone said.

With volunteers working through a steady drizzle, the last cars were loaded up shortly after noon.

“This affects everyone,” said Cadle.

Mark Rosenberg reports on rural community life for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach him at mrosenberg@vicad.com or 361-574-1264 or on Twitter at @markrosenberg32. To support local journalism at the Advocate through Report for America, go to VictoriaAdvocate.com/report.

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Reporter

Mark Rosenberg writes about rural community life for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. He covers Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, and Refugio counties. Questions or tips? Contact: mrosenberg@vicad.com or call 361-574-1264.

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