The Food Pantry served more than 10,000 households in 2015—more than 18,000 people, distributed more than 323,000 pounds of food and provided over 258,000 meals, 36 hours of instruction reaching 560 households, 8,000 referrals, 456 emergency interventions.
Big numbers…that speak to the large number of Bastrop County residents living in or on the thin edge of poverty—one in seven in our county. And that ratio is an understatement: it doesn’t reflect the large numbers among the undocumented population in the same circumstances. By that imperfect measure, a minimum of 14.4 percent of Bastrop County residents are food insecure. Approximately 25 percent of Bastrop County’s children live in these same homes: 4,790 children are facing hunger. According to Feeding America’s Map, the Meal Gap statistics for Bastrop County suggest an even more alarming reality: about 73 percent of our school-age kids are in low income families and qualify for the federal free or reduced price meals program.
Poverty has a number but we can’t lose sight of the faces: people—babies, children, parents, adults, seniors, men and women—living among us, possibly a neighbor, a friend, a relative. Each has a unique story with some common themes: a financial or health setback—temporary or otherwise—that has thrust them in poverty, those who lack the employability or employment to anchor self-sufficiency, those who are hungry and uncertain where the next meal is coming from, those whose food choices undermine their health. A great many faces, a great many needs. The Food Pantry is their lifeline, providing a hand UP toward self-sufficiency.
Long ago Margaret Mead describes the passion that has since informed the Pantry’s history: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
The Food Pantry was created in 1987 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to meet the emergency food needs of Bastrop County residents. The Food Pantry is proud of its history as a Hunger Buster food support center and its ability to respond immediately to individuals and families in a food crisis with a “no-wait, no red-tape” attitude. It moved from its original location at 1002 Jefferson Street, to its current location at 1201 Pine Street in historic downtown Bastrop in May 1990. In August of that year, the Food Pantry inaugurated its Brown Bag program. On March 3, 1995 and to accommodate a growing program, the Food Pantry opened for the Jewell Hodges Support Center on its Pine Street site. Continuing growth—in the numbers needing Food Pantry services and in the range of services promoted the addition of warehouse and office facilities at 806 Fayette Street. The Fayette Street site serves as the intake center for clients as well.
The Food Pantry’s policies are made by a Board of Directors consisting of five and not more than fifteen individuals from the community and an Advisory Council made up of 51 percent low income residents of Bastrop. The Food Pantry has become a multi-service agency—committed to providing vital client services, in addition to food. These services include: counseling, advocacy, resource management education and referrals to other local agencies for additional support, such as job training.
The Food Pantry receives funding from both city and county government and the United Way/Capital Area in addition to generous donations from local businesses, churches, organizations and individuals. The Food Pantry prides itself on its history of continually running a tight operation—primarily volunteer-driven with minimal paid staff.
The year 2001 ushered in a wave of changes at the Food Pantry. Mrs. Jewell Hodges, a Food Pantry founder who had faithfully served as the Food Pantry’s CEO since the beginning retired; in May 2002, Tresha Sanders-Silva, former prevention education coordinator for the Family Crisis Center, was named as Executive Director. Through her leadership, the Food Pantry continues to uphold its commitment to the community to supply emergency food while providing vital high-quality services to the families and individuals served by the Pantry.