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Inflation, cuts to federal food aid drive massive need at North Texas food banks

Volunteers carry food to vehicles
Yfat Yossifor
Cassandra Martin hands out cartons of eggs during a North Texas Food Bank and Tarrant Area Food Bank drive-thru food distribution event Thursday, March 9, 2023, at Westside Baptist Church in Lewisville.

Two food banks serving Dallas-Fort Worth organized a pop-up food distribution as inflation continues to strain family finances.

Hundreds of cars and trucks snaked the parking lot of Westside Baptist Church in Lewisville on Thursday, their drivers waiting to pick up groceries. These mobile food distributions were pioneered by food banks at the height of the pandemic. Today, they reflect the ongoing struggle facing many in Dallas-Fort Worth – and a harbinger of what’s to come as cuts to federal food aid take effect.

Alyssa Hughes of Lewisville and her husband both work, but inflation gobbles up more and more of their paychecks. Even with a 3% raise this year, the money just runs out faster than it used to.

“Nothing's going down. Everything's going up. Last year, our lease went up $200 [a month] for rent. This year it went up $100,” Hughes said. “That's just making times harder for everybody, I think.”

Hughes said she only comes to the food bank when she needs to and said she won’t sign up for food stamps because she wants people with greater need to get the help. When she has a little extra cash, she uses it to help people experiencing homelessness.

Volunteers put oranges in grocery bags
Yfat Yossifor
Darlene Hess, left, and Deedra Bouline bag oranges during a North Texas Food Bank and Tarrant Area Food Bank drive-thru food distribution event Thursday, March 9, 2023, at Westside Baptist Church in Lewisville.

At the church, dozens of volunteers from the Tarrant Area Food Bank and the North Texas Food Bank put grocery bags into open trunks, and carefully passed cartons of eggs through car windows. The two organizations serve more than two dozen counties around North Texas.

The food banks had food on hand for about 600 families on Thursday; the event was timed to help fill cupboards just ahead of spring break. When students are home from school, they aren’t eating school meals and so families need more food at home.

“We know during breaks children don't have access to the food they [normally] would receive at school. So our intent is to make sure that nobody goes hungry,” said Erica Yaeger, chief external affairs officer for the North Texas Food Bank.

Yaeger said the North Texas Food Bank was already serving significantly more people than it was at the height of the pandemic. Now, they expect to see a whole lot more need because of cuts in food aid from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

During the pandemic, the federal government boosted the amount of money for families and individuals enrolled in the program. That ended at the end of February, leaving 3.6 million Texans who rely on food stamps with less to spend on groceries.

“There are 18,000 families here in Denton County that will see a reduction in those benefits. On average, $212 a month,” Yaeger said. “We expect to see more people turn to the charitable food network for assistance, and we encourage them to do so because nobody deserves to be hungry.”

Got a tip? Christopher Connelly is KERA's One Crisis Away Reporter, exploring life on the financial edge. Email Christopher can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.

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Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.