FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Activity at the Tarrant Area Food Bank warehouse in Fort Worth is nearly nonstop. People pack food into boxes then stack them. They drive forklifts to loading docks where the boxes are shipped to food pantries and food banks in 13 North Texas counties.
And, increasingly, the shelves loaded with boxes one day are empty the next, because as business declines in Texas, business at the food bank is on the rise.
“We’ve seen the demand just at the food pantries this past year increase 20 percent and then 20 percent the year before that,” said Andrea Helms, Tarrant Area Food Bank Communications Director.
A newly released study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that 14.7 percent of Americans have limited availability to food, or they’re uncertain if they will have food in coming days. This is called food insecurity.
The report states 17.4 percent Texans are food insecure, second only by a fraction of a percentage point to Arkansas.
Food bank workers said their clients are not just the unemployed. Helms said they’re “people who have maybe part time jobs or are working several part-time jobs, minimum wage jobs.”
Maria Zambrano works for a new federal pilot program in the Tarrant County area called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. SNAP uses a debit card system to replace food stamps. Zambrano is tasked with reaching out to people who, until now, haven’t necessarily needed assistance.
“I’ve interviewed people who’ve had masters degrees and they got laid off and they lost everything,” Zambrano said.
Tarrant Area Food Bank figures show 52 percent of the people using their services are families that have to choose between utilities and food. About 39 percent are people who must choose between food and medicine.
The USDA’s figures are drawn primarily from 2009. But federal researchers and workers at the food bank say it’s likely the number of food insecure people has risen since then.