Hundreds attend free produce drop as need in Nacogdoches grows during pandemic

Updated: Oct. 23, 2020 at 3:35 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The need is still great for many families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds turned out at a produce distribution Friday that was hosted by the East Texas Food Bank and the Helping Other People Eat Food Pantry in Nacogdoches.

It’s not the first Produce Drop in East Texas, and fortunately, won’t be the last. During the last six months, reliance on the HOPE Food Pantry has increased 14 percent over last year.

“And a lot of it is people have lost jobs, people have needed to move,” explained Miya Bradly, a Stephen F. Austin State University social work intern at HOPE.

This time, no eligibility questions were asked.

Over 1,400 boxes were filled with apples, potatoes, and onions. Gallons of milk were shared.

“Fresh produce is way more nutritious than packaged foods,” said SFA food and nutrition intern Lauren Christopher. “Whole foods are what you always want to stick with.”

Cars lined up all the way past the loop onto Old Tyler Road to enter the parking lot at the Nacogdoches Exposition Center. Betty Duffield was one of the first in multiple lines.

“I was raised up on fresh vegetables," Duffield said. "We didn’t do a lot of can goods, and I didn’t get to have a productive garden this year, so it will help a lot.”

SFA track and field athletes were among the 60 volunteers doing the heavy lifting.

Their coach, Philip Olson, knows that public service is a way for some of them “to pay it forward.”

“A lot of our kids live that," Olson said. Some are going to the food bank every two weeks, and so for them to come out here now and serve others is quite special.”

Data shows that each month 2,400 members go to the HOPE Food Pantry. A drive-thru Produce Drop serves as a supplement.

Volunteer Carl Woodrow said he is pleased by each vehicle he directs.

“They come in with a frown and leave smiling," Woodrow said. "I love it.”

All 1,400 boxes were handed out within two hours. The same is likely to happen next week in Lufkin. The next produce drop in Deep East Texas will be on Tuesday, October 27 from 10 a.m. to noon at the George H. Henderson Expo Center. There will also be produce drops at the same location, same time in November and December.

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