East Texas sees record numbers seeking food help

By Holley Nees - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - At 81 years old with a bad leg, Martha Warren needs food assistance and she's not the only one.

"I meet quite a few in the same shape I'm in," said Martha Warren, of Christian Information and Service Center. "It's especially bad on the senior citizens."

"I've been unemployed and they're a great help because my wife has multiple sclerosis and when I'm working, I don't come here, but when I'm not, this is a great help," said David Wright, who is a CISC client.

CISC Executive Director Linda Smelley has helped feed the hungry for years, but watching people suffer doesn't get easier.

"I thought I was used to the hurt and it got to me yesterday," Smelley said. "It's hard what's happening."

About 200 new families register in Lufkin for help every month. They join nearly 200,000 East Texans that receive emergency food each year.

"And I say, I never cry, I never get upset, I just keep going, but yesterday was a real reality check, going in the house, seeing the food, and watching a woman who was 180 pounds and I took her to the hospital and she was 128 and this is in a year," Smelley said.

"As a registered dietician, it is really very disturbing because when there is insufficient nutrition there are a lot of adverse effects," said Carol Bradley, an East Texas Food Bank Board member. "It affects physical health, behavior, mental health and it makes it really hard for children to learn in school."

Last year, Smelley bought 1.5 million pounds of food. This year, she hopes things will get better.

"These people are really losing weight and becoming ill and I'm watching them die up here," Smelley said.

"I really need it. I'm not going to lie about it," Warren said.

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