Local food banks got a big boost this month with donations of about 13,000 pounds of boxed and canned goods and 2,400 cubic feet of new cold storage space.
The boost was the result of a friendly, weeklong competition to collect food leading up to the third annual Mayor’s Day of Concern for the Hungry in Denton on Tuesday, when the results were announced by Mayor Mark Burroughs at a press conference at Vision Ministries, a local program aimed at addressing poverty.
The drive brought in 4,000 more pounds of food this year than last year. Employees with James Wood AutoPark were honored for bringing in the most donations, a total of 3,056 pounds of boxed and canned goods.
Among financial institutions that participated in the drive, DATCU led the way with 774 pounds of food. The students of Newton Rayzor Elementary School brought in the most from participating area schools, at 408 pounds. And the offices of state Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, collected 286 pounds, the most among the elected officials who participated.
Representatives of several community groups that will benefit from the drive were present for the mayor’s announcement, including the Denton Community Food Center, Denton County Friends of the Family, Denton County MHMR, First Refuge Ministries, Health Services of North Texas, Our Daily Bread, Salvation Army, SPAN Meals on Wheels, The Shepherd’s Hand and Vision Ministries.
Burroughs said he became concerned about the local problem with hunger after visiting with officials at the Denton school district, who told him that more than 700 school children are homeless and another 11,000 participate in the district’s free or reduced lunch and breakfast programs.
According to Feeding America, a national nonprofit that tracks hunger in America, more Denton County residents became “food insecure” between 2011 and 2012. The estimate of Denton County residents who weren’t always sure where their next meal would come from in 2012 was estimated at 105,430 people, or 15.8 percent of the population, up from 15.2 percent the previous year.
While less than the statewide average, Denton County’s average increased even as the statewide average inched down from 18.4 percent in 2011 to 18.3 percent in 2012. To have fully addressed local hunger in 2012, Texas would have needed another $2 billion and Denton County would have needed $51.5 million, according to Feeding America.
At the end of the mayor’s presentation Tuesday, Tom Newell, chairman of the Denton Community Food Center, showed visitors the new cooler and freezer installed in the Vision Ministries warehouse.
The additional storage capacity will allow the center to make and store more bulk purchases and work closely with trucking companies and suppliers for donations, particularly those doing business with the new Target distribution center on the city’s west side and Kroger.
Previously, the center had just four chest freezers to store donations. Since powering up the new units, the organization has been able to accept donations of milk and chicken. The center expects to collect and distribute much more food that needs cold storage than it ever could before, Newell said.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.
HOW TO HELP
The Denton Community Food Center, 109 W. Sycamore St., accepts both cash and food donations year-round. The center is open 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Cash donations — $10 can buy $70 worth of food at regional food banks — can be mailed to Denton Community Food Center, P.O. Box 2121, Denton, TX 76202.
The most needed food donations include peanut butter, boxed cereal and canned fruit. To see all the food items on the wish list, visit the center’s website at www.dentoncfc.org and click on the donations tab.