After helping area residents put together their Thanksgiving meals, the Denton Community Food Center is now looking ahead to upcoming needs as the Christmas holidays approach.
The center gives away about 229 tons of food each year, about 30 percent of which is donated, according to Tom Newell, the center’s chairman.
This year’s biggest bulk donation of Thanksgiving turkeys came from Walmart employees, Newell said. In fact, about 50 percent to 60 percent of the food donated to the center each year comes in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The center often does better with contributions of money than food, since it has bulk purchasing power. But the center does its best to make the contributions last, even as storage — particularly cold storage — is becoming a problem, he said.
Joe Ader, executive director of Serve Denton, said hunger is such in Denton County that people need help filling their pantries with more than just holiday staples.
“They need peanut butter, cereal and canned fruit, too,” Ader said.
When churches and other organizers of food drives call, Newell asks for help with those items. In recent months, the center has had a hard time getting good deals buying peanut butter, he said.
To mark the holiday season, officials with the Texas Food Bank Network also asked Texans to call on their Congress members and advocate for federal nutrition programs.
At the beginning of November, Texans who receive federal assistance to buy food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, saw a 7 percent decrease in their benefits. Overall, Texas lost $16.7 million in aid for the hungry and expects to lose another $411 million in the next 11 months.
Hunger relief for most Texans comes from SNAP, sometimes called food stamps, and through school lunch and breakfast programs, and senior nutrition programs, such as Meals on Wheels.
Local food banks help fill the gap in those federal programs and the reductions are expected to trigger more pressure on food banks.
Area residents are allowed just four visits each calendar year to the Denton Community Food Center, Newell said.
The pantry benefits from a big drive held by postal workers in May, but many other donors forget that hunger is an ongoing challenge, Newell said.
According to Feeding America, a national nonprofit, about 15.2 percent of Denton County residents are “food insecure.” While slightly less than the statewide average of about 18.4 percent food insecure, it still means about 100,000 residents often go without food for several meals, or even several days.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.
DENTON COMMUNITY FOOD CENTER
Monetary donations: Checks can be mailed to Denton Community Food Center, P.O. Box 2121, Denton, TX 76202.
Food donations: Accepted from 1 and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 109 W. Sycamore St.
For more information: call 940-382-0807 or visit www.dentoncfc.org.