The Storehouse of Collin County seeks the community’s support during “North Texas Giving Tuesday Now” to flatten a new rising COVID-19 curve: neighbors struggling with basic needs due to skyrocketing unemployment.
North Texas Giving Tuesday Now began April 14 and lasts until May 5.
More than 22 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 outbreak struck North Texas last month. Millions more have been trying to file, but struggle to reach someone at the unemployment office. Others have filed yet still haven’t received a check. The $1,200 from the IRS has helped (for those who’ve been able to receive it), but isn’t enough to make it to the end of the month for most people. They have no other choice but to seek help from food pantries like The Storehouse’s Seven Loaves Food Pantry in Plano.
“What food banks and food pantries are experiencing now on a national level is unprecedented,” says Candace Winslow, the executive director of The Storehouse. “During natural disasters and other emergencies, there is the option of relying on other areas for support, but during COVID-19, there is hunger everywhere, and people are hungry every day.”
At The Storehouse’s Seven Loves Food Pantry, the number of people seeking help has been increasing each week from 300 families in mid March to nearly 600 families in early April.
Of course, people’s need for help in Collin County was already a struggle before the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite being recognized as one of the most affluent counties in Texas, one in six households weren’t sure where their next meal was coming from, and one in five children were affected by hunger.
“With the closing of businesses, increasing unemployment, and children at home full-time, many of our Collin County neighbors are finding themselves at the doors of our food pantry for the first time,” Winslow says. “While many sheltering at home may feel helpless, ‘North Texas Giving Tuesday Now’ gives us all a way to do something that will make an impact.”
The Storehouse is one of the largest distributors of food for the North Texas Food Bank and has access to food items, in part, provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Though the food doesn’t cost them, they still have to handle it and transport it, which isn’t covered. A donation also makes it possible for them to offer healthier items such as fresh produce.
They were also offering other services such as career and mental health help through The Storehouse’s Project Hope program. They build relationships with the people who are seeking help and consider themselves “a conduit of care” in the community, according to The Storehouse spokesperson Ben Skye.
“The pantry is the gateway to the rest of the support,” Skye says.
Recently, The Storehouse has had to rely more on the North Texas Food Bank for food items since they can’t host food drives or do grocery store pickups. They’d been receiving help from food service partners, local corporations, and thousands of volunteers. The COVID-19 outbreak has limited the resources normally available to them, Winslow says.
Of course, like other businesses still operating during the shutdown, The Storehouse is operating on a revised distribution model. Their clients currently receive food items outside in a walk-up model that follows CDC guidelines.
And while Gov. Greg Abbott has implemented a strike force to help open the Texas economy, The Storehouse anticipates the need for help will continue long after “the veil of COVID-19 is lifted.” After all, it will take people some time to pull themselves up from their bootstraps.
“While many will be able to go back to places of employment, there will be many who will not be so lucky,” Winslow wrote in the press release. “Savings will be depleted, families will face debt, and we will see an increase in needs beyond food in our Project Hope Program, which supports women in crisis. This ‘echo crisis’ will be evident among many nonprofits serving on the frontlines.”