Letters – Food distribution program shutters in Caldwell County

To Judge Schawe:
Feb. 15, 2017, marked the end of an era of the Caldwell County Extension Education Association’s food distribution project as we have known it since 1994.
Due to change in policy and procedures, the Central Texas Food Bank in Austin has ceased to permit our organization to purchase nonperishable U.S.D.A. food products and other discounted food to distribute bi-monthly throughout Caldwell County.  Therefore, it is no longer necessary for the Caldwell County Road Unit to provide transportation for us in this endeavor.
The Central Texas Food Bank mandated that we meet all general partner compliance standards which include: a permanent facility with ample refrigeration and dry storage space and that we be open twice a month for at least two hours each time as do all other Central Texas Food Pantries in CentralTexas including  the Caldwell Christian Ministries Emergency Food Pantry in Lockhart and the Luling Food Bank.
Everything was okay when we first started this project, but times have changed.
In 1994 the late Genevieve Morgan from Luling and I went to visit Caldwell County Judge Rebecca Hawener for some ideas as to how we might get food transported from the food bank in Austin, Texas, to various distribution sites in Caldwell County. She felt this was a worthwhile project for our organization to undertake and solicited the Caldwell County Road Unit to help us make a difference with the food insecurity issue in Caldwell County.
Our food distribution project replaced the program which Community Action (commodities) after they dropped Caldwell County for whatever unknown reason. There was no cost for the food when we first began this project, but after about five years the food bank informed us that they had to charge us from 12 – 17 cents a pound for the food handling costs and more if they had to purchase the food elsewhere just to keep an inventory of food on hand because of the demand. This cost was to help defray expenses they now have incurred with expansion of a big nice facility even if the food came from USDA or was donated.
This was a great big bump in the road for us! What do we do now? We had no money in the bank and we had never before tackled a project of this magnitude in the history of our organization. We decided to go for it; some of us conjured up enough nerve to approach individuals, both Lockhart and Luling city councils, and other organizations to tell our story of how we were trying to improve our county’s food insecurity issue.  At that time both existing food pantries were trying to get their feet off the ground and our goal was to supplement the county’s food insecurity clients with just one more place to get a little more food.
We even won the “Agency of the Year Award” in 2007 out of  over 300 other central Texas agencies.
Since we first began this project the food insecurity issue has been addressed much, much more widely; churches and other organizations in both Lockhart and Luling have begun to undertake much of this responsibility.
The end of an era: perhaps we have fulfilled our goal; we got the wheels rolling in Caldwell County. There are other options in the works  but no details yet.  The Central Texas Food Bank in Austin says they have a very sensitive relationship with our organization and are trying very hard to find some type of program that might be feasible for us.   A short-term option: a food bank truck would deliver fresh produce once a month; long term option: Central Texas Food Bank Mobile Unit could be coming to Caldwell County, but not soon because other counties in central Texas have greater priority needs.
It is with sadness that I write this letter to you and the Caldwell County Road Unit’s leaders and staff on behalf of all the members of the Extension Education Association in Caldwell County associated with our long standing food distribution project. Through thick and thin, sweltering heat, icy cold, wind and rain you were there for us. Thank you, thank you for all your kindnesses, services, and dedication.
The road unit transportation drivers always showed to be the top of the line county employees.
Thanks Caldwell County for helping us with this effort for without you we could never have made this project so successful.  May God Bless you in continuing to put Caldwell County residents first as He has blessed us for 23 years.
Thanks,
Clara Smith
Food Distribution Project Coordinator
Extension Education Association in Caldwell County

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