Local food bank seeks end-of-year donations
The Caldwell County Christian Ministries Food Bank is making a final push to bring in donations that will go on to assist more than 800 in-need families throughout the county.
The nonprofit — which provides families with healthy, free food options, in addition to several other programs aimed at providing assistance – runs almost entirely off of donations, so every dollar brought in goes toward helping families in need.
Since the beginning of this year, the food bank has nearly doubled the number of families it serves, going from 422 families in February to 756 in November.
According to Executive Director Meredith Jakovich, who started at the food bank in January, building relationships with clients has been key to increasing awareness of the nonprofit.
“We create an experience for them that’s a pleasant one,” said Jakovich. “They come in here, they get their groceries for the month, we have a conversation, we smile, we talk about their kids.
“We know these folks. We may be the only people they see that day.”
But what do you get? Well, quite a lot. Every month, each family is eligible to receive a 50-pound food basket filled with an assortment of goods. In addition, the food pantry has bins of produce that are available to people every day, regardless of whether they’ve received their baskets.
“If they already have their basket, they can at least come in and get fruit and vegetables — whatever’s there,” said Jakovich. “And that’s every day.”
Jakovich said the process for receiving services from the food bank is simple. Anyone interested simply needs to show up with a photo ID and proof of residency – cable bill, phone bill, basically anything with an address – and fill out a short application. Those coming in are eligible to receive food the same day.
According to Jakovich, the application is available in both English and Spanish, and volunteers will be on hand to help anyone who might need assistance.
Matthew Bostick, a veteran from Caldwell County who’s been coming to the food pantry for years, said since the beginning of 2019, services at the nonprofit have improved dramatically.
“You see a faster response to customer service, everyone is far more friendly, and they put the produce out here so you can grab what you need instead of them handing you a little back of nothing,” said Bostick. “Everyone is pretty much family.
“It makes you want to come here just so you can talk to people. It’s more of a community now.”
Bostick added that even the quality of the food at the pantry has improved.
“The food has gotten better,” he said. “In the old days, you might get one piece of meat.
“Now you get filled up. You can actually live off it for a few days instead of six hours.”
In addition to food services, the food pantry has recently started a pilot program with Lockhart Junior High School that not only provides students with an assortment of non-perishable goods, but a backpack to boot.
When the program first began several months ago, 24 students selected by the school were each given a backpack filled with food items from the pantry. The backpack also includes a voucher so the students and their families can go to the food bank in person to pick up perishable items like bread and meats.
Every month, the students can return to the food pantry to have their backpacks refilled, and at the end of the year, the students get to keep the backpacks.
Because of the rush of new families being served at the food shelter, Jakovich said the nonprofit’s need for donations has also gone up.
While Jakovich says canned food drives and other similar donations are wonderful for the nonprofit, she noted cash can actually go a lot further because of the food bank’s ability to buy food at a discounted rate of 16 cents per pound from the Central Texas Food Bank.
Checks are preferred, she said, and can be made out to the Caldwell County Christian Ministries Food Bank, however, cash is also accepted. Those interested in donating can send their donations to the food bank, located at 901 Bois D’Arc St., Lockhart, 78644. Toiletry and personal care items are also accepted and administered when available.
“[Personal care items] with this demographic are often pushed off to the side because they can’t afford it,” said Jakovich. “When we have it, we do distribute it.”
Jeannie Fox, board chairperson of Caldwell County Christian Ministries, also stressed the importance of community donations.
“We depend on the generosity of the Lockhart community,” said Fox. “If it weren’t for the donations made by businesses, churches, organizations, and private individuals, the CCCM Food Pantry would not exist.
“We are very grateful for their continued support.”
Jakovich stressed the importance of trying to put yourself in some of her client’s shoes.
“I always ask people to think about the last time they were hungry,” said Jakovich. “What suffered?
“Were you grumpy? Could you not concentrate? How did that affect you? Then I say, what if that was every day? Because that’s the reality for a clients.”