By Greg Ritchie
CROCKETT – Once a month at the Crockett Civic Center, the lines usually start to form around noon. The food parcels meant for local families do not officially begin to be distributed until 4 or 5 in the afternoon, meaning it can be a long wait in a long line on a hot day.
However for many Crockett residents, the food parcels are a Godsend, providing vegetables, meat, dairy, and other products. The parcels vary from month to month based on what is available, but every bit helps and local always show their gratitude to the members of the Piney Woods Lions Club who volunteer to distribute the food.
Jenni Shartle is the Vice President of the Piney Woods Lions Club. She and the organization have been helping pack and distribute the food parcels since January 2021. The Lions distribute whatever is sent to them from the food bank.
“It’s mostly produce,” Shartle notes. “Although sometimes they surprise us with dairy, meat, and bread products.”
The parcels are given out the third Monday of the month. This time it was watermelons, carrots, and peaches. The wait was shorter this time since there was not as much variety as other months. Cars came through the four available lines quickly, with the many volunteers wearing their yellow safety vests and chatting with locals before loading the food into their cars.
The East Texas Food Bank (ETFB) serves 26 counties in East Texas, with eight locations in Houston County including summer food programs for children and food for seniors.
Rebecca Berkley, Communications Director for the ETFB says they get their food from a variety of sources.
“The East Texas Food Bank receives its food from a variety of sources including the USDA, retail, farmers, manufacturers, and food drives,” according to Berkley. “The ETFB is having to buy more food as donations are down and it’s costing us about 10-15% more than last year.”
FeedingAmerica.com claims almost 17% of the population in Houston County suffers from food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined by the US Food and Drug Administration as
the lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life.
Shartle says local residents are grateful for the help and to the volunteers who work so hard to keep it all so organized.
“Mostly people are just overwhelmed at the generosity,” Shartle said. “We encourage all of our members to go stand in line and talk to the people coming through because people are so grateful.”
Crockett residents along with many in the country have been hit hard by the rising inflation and fuel costs.
Berkley confirmed, “We are currently seeing a higher demand for food because of the rise in prices with inflation and the supply chain issues of getting products in. We are so grateful for our generous community and volunteers who help keep the food bank operational.”
Shartle estimated the Lions service about 800 families each month in the Crockett area while sending food for another 100 families in Lovelady.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]