Most of us wake up each morning not worrying whether we are going to be able to eat that day. Why would we? Our refrigerators and pantries are full, and if they aren’t, we can easily run to the nearest grocery store and purchase what we want.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. In fact, according to Feeding Texas, 1 in 8 Texans are currently experiencing food insecurity, and that number has drastically increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. One organization trying to meet this need is the Montgomery County Food Bank.
Kristine Marlow, president and CEO of the MCFB, recalled the increased demand caused by the pandemic.
“I watched almost overnight the lines of cars looking for food assistance triple,” she said. “Many people never have needed this kind of help before. For many people, they were brought there by job loss … I overwhelmingly heard of their gratitude.”
The food bank’s mission is to unite the local community to fight hunger by addressing food insecurity and food waste.
MCFB strives to end food insecurity by providing nutritious meals to those in need, working through various programs and with the help of over 70 partner agencies. One such program is the food bank’s Mobile Markets, where people can pick up food from pop-up locations throughout Montgomery County. During the pandemic, these markets became the primary method of food distribution, as they allowed for contactless delivery. Before the pandemic, the MCFB hosted four to five Mobile Markets each month; it now hosts 15 each month.
The MCFB has many other programs and a long list of partner agencies that it teams up with to provide nutritious food to those facing food insecurity in Montgomery County. Its senior citizen distribution program delivers groceries to the doors of 531 seniors monthly. In 2021 alone, the MCFB was able to provide over 9.6 million nutritious meals to the local community and served more than 55,800 people each month.
Another goal of the MCFB is to address food waste by reducing the amount of food that goes into landfills.
“Most of the food that comes into the food bank is donated … [and] a lot of that food is on trucks that are being diverted from the landfill,” Marlow said. “We bring it to the food bank and through our amazing volunteers and staff, we are able to go through all of it and separate the food that is still safe for human consumption.”
The remaining items not suitable for consumption are sent to be composted. Much of this work takes place at the MCFB’s Produce Rescue Center, where volunteers help sort fresh produce. The MCFB has rescued more than 16 million pounds of produce since it started in 2017. Not only does the food bank provide nutritious food to those in need, it seeks to educate and inspire people in the community to make healthier food choices. Various educational resources on topics like how to prepare healthy meals and how to shop economically for nutritious foods are available on the food bank’s website.
The MCFB is continually looking for volunteers and has a variety of opportunities available. From helping sort food items and packing boxes to distributing goods or donating, no effort is too small.
“Hunger does not stop,” Marlow said. “We encourage the community, as they are considering their own blessings, to consider ways they can help others.”