Massive Food Distribution At Globe Life Field Feeds Thousands In Tarrant County
The Rangers have yet to play a game at their brand new Globe Life Field in Arlington, but one of its parking lots was filled with thousands of cars this morning. They were part of a massive grocery giveaway from the Tarrant Area Food Bank.
The cars started lining up almost an hour before the food distribution was slated to start, and by 8 a.m., hundreds and hundreds of cars stretched across several lanes, blanketing the massive parking lot.
Members of the Texas Air National Guard ran the operation with military precision. Once the cars inched their way to the front of the line, a couple dozen airmen worked in teams to heft boxes off of pallets and load them into open trunks.
Each family drove away with about 78 pounds of food – fresh produce, frozen chicken, a gallon milk and some non-perishables.
The National Guard was called up in April to help food banks meet the wave of need unleashed when the pandemic hit Texas. Major Daryl Howard says these massive distributions can serve about 10 to 15 families a minute — and sometimes that includes familiar faces.
"Our service members and some of our airmen have had family members come through, had friends come through," Howard said. "We’re not immune to it just because we’re in the guard. But we’ve been activated and we have a job to do, and we can’t let that get in the way because our job is to make sure we help others."
But it won’t be their job for much longer. These airmen are scheduled to cycle back to civilian life at the end of next week.
Julie Butner, head of the Tarrant Area Food Bank, says they can’t do these mass distributions without them. So the state’s network of food banks have been lobbying the governor to extend their deployment.
"We’ve written to Gov. Abbott, we’ve called, we’ve solicited. We all need the Air National Guard desperately," Butner said.
The food bank will still do dozens of smaller scale events each week. The staggering demand comes just weeks before federal help for renters, homeowners and the unemployed is slated to end.
"Our best guesstimate is that 40% of these folks are new to the food bank, they have never had to ask for food before. It’s really heartbreaking," Butner said.
Over this four-hour event, the food bank and the airmen distributed more than 291,000 pounds of food to over 3,700 families — families like Liz Plumly’s.
"This last month it was a $700 income for the whole month, so we have no idea how we’re doing it," Plumly said.
Plumly said her husband lost his job in the oil patch back in February. She might try to go back to work as a middle-school teacher this fall, she says, but she isn’t sure that paycheck would even cover the cost of child care for her two young children.
"Electric bills are through the roof, and it’s hot," Plumly said. "We’ve got a newborn, and it’s getting out of control."
Keven Costlow of Arlington says he thought he was doing everything right, until he lost his writing job in March.
"Everything I planned on doing this year – and I’ve made a lot of good plans – and almost none of them are coming to fruition," Costlow said.
Velma Nelson from Fort Worth retired as planned in April. Since then, though, she’s been taking care of three grandkids because school let out early and summer activities are cancelled. And she said she needs a little extra help with groceries.
"Yep, so them being in the house all day, they walk and eat ... eat and walk," Nelson said.
For Jose Martinez, it’s been a struggle since the pandemic hit.
"Pues me afecto porque, se corto el trabajo y ahorita no estoy trabajando y pues, somos seis, seis de familia y mi suegra que esta ahí conmigo familia," Martinez said.
"Well it’s affected me because work cut off and now I am not working. And so, we are a six-person family and my mother-in-law who is with us."
He lost his job in April, and he said he hasn’t been working. He says he doesn’t qualify for unemployment, so he and his wife, their three kids, and his mother-in-law are relying on help where they can find it.
"Si, si ayuda, si me ayudas, pues."
"Yes, yes it helps. It helps me. So..."
He’s been going to food pantries, he says, but the groceries never last long enough. Meanwhile, he’s hoping his boss will call him back to work again soon.
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