Fighting hunger is as easy as heading to your mailbox

April 18th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Stamp Out Hunger Did you know the Saturday before Mother’s Day is also the largest one-day food drive in the nation? Stamp Out Hunger transforms your friendly neighborhood letter carrier into a member of a nationwide hunger-fighting force.

Look for the brown paper H-E-B bag in your mailbox, fill it with healthy, non-perishable food and set it by your mailbox on Saturday, May 10, to be picked up and delivered to your Food Bank. You can also show your support with an online donation.

This year marks Stamp Out Hunger’s 22nd year, and we’re proud to participate in this community-driven show of giving.

Over the years, we’ve seen a tremendous response from our supporters. Thank you all, especially the National Association of Letter Carriers for your partnership in this effort to end hunger.


These car buffs are revved up about ending hunger

April 16th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

cars and coffee

Austin’s premier auto enthusiasts’ meet up attracted national attention this month, while helping Central Texans facing hunger.

The Discovery Channel covered the Central Texas Muscle Car Rally on April 6 at the Oasis on Lake Travis. This special edition of Cars and Coffee Austin—a monthly celebration of classic, vintage, antique and exotic cars—showed off some of the region’s coolest cars from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Since 2010, Cars and Coffee Austin has drawn car buffs from across Central Texas to show off their hot rides, get their horse power tested and, of course, support the Capital Area Food Bank.

We’ve been thrilled to watch the event grow over the past four years, and since January 2013, Cars and Coffee Austin has raised over 17,000 meals for the Capital Area Food Bank. It’s one of our favorite events, so come out and see what all the excitement is about at the next Cars and Coffee Austin meet up on May 11, from 10:00 A.M. — 1:00 P.M. at the Oasis on Lake Travis.


What we don’t know can also be the key to ending hunger

April 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Trisha  lies to the food pantry but wishes she didn’t have to. We understand why she feels the need to do so.

For many of our neighbors, asking for help with putting food on the table is one of the toughest things they’ll ever have to do. They may have worked all of their lives and suddenly find themselves with less income because of an illness,  a sudden need to take care of a family member, unemployment or some other unexpected event. We also know that living with hunger can also mean living with a full-time job that doesn’t pay enough to make ends meet. Living with hunger can mean making tough choices while on unemployment and looking for new work.


Many of our neighbors are entering our lines for the first time, when previously they’ve been the ones on the other side of the line helping out those in need. The last thing we want to do is to make them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable in their moment of crisis.

As part of our partnerships with local food pantries, we strongly encourage them to not ask clients unnecessary personal questions during the intake process.  Many Partners distribute USDA commodities through The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which requires them to ask about income eligibility (a verbal declaration is accepted) and basic information such as number of members of the household, address and name.

Our goal is to connect as many people in need to better nutrition and healthier choices. We believe that one of the best ways to break the barriers to access is by respecting our clients’ privacy and treating everyone with dignity and respect.


Five Tips for Rocking Out at Reggae Fest

April 14th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

We’re counting down the days to the Austin Reggae Festival, and your Food Bank has the scoop on how to make this the best festival ever.

2013 Reggae Fest

1. Enjoy the new digs. This year only, while Auditorium Shores is under construction, Austin Reggae Festival is moving next door to Butler Park (1000 Barton Springs Road).

2. It’s all about the three-day pass. With a three-day pass, you’ll save $5 and enjoy in-and-out privileges at Butler Park. Single-day ticket holders will not be allowed re-entry. Three-day passes are only available online, so get yours now.

3. Bring your drums and all the good vibes you can carry, but tents and canopies are not allowed this year. Dogs, cats, wombats and other pets will have to stay home too. Check out the Austin Reggae Festival website for a complete list of what you can bring to Butler Park.

4. Parking downtown can be a drag, so why not try greener options for getting to Butler Park? Ride your bike, take public transportation or even carpool. Detailed parking information is available on the Austin Reggae Festival website.

5. As always, we appreciate any cash and/or non-perishable food donations you make in addition to your entry fee. It all helps us provide immediate support to Central Texans facing hunger.

Follow the Food Bank on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute festival news. Have fun, stay safe and we’ll see you at the festival!


Honoring Jack Harrington, the ‘backbone’ of the St. John food pantry

April 11th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Our volunteers help keep the Food Bank running. Each year around 19,000 volunteers donate over 90,000 volunteer hours in product recovery, at the St. John food pantry, through our mobile pantries, at our events and in our offices. We couldn’t be more grateful, so we’re thrilled to honor our Volunteer Leader of the Quarter, Jack Harrington.

Jack Harrington

Since 2011, Jack has volunteered nearly 1,000 hours in both product recovery and the St. John Community Food Center. He has become the backbone of St. John and is a permanent and reliable volunteer that is there whenever the Food Bank needs him.

Jack is retired and, a few years ago, he was looking for a worthwhile organization. Lucky for us, he thought of the Food Bank.

He first volunteered in our product recovery area, but when the St. John pantry opened, he decided to volunteer there since it is closer to his home. Jack says he just fell in love with the St. John staff, volunteers and individuals served at the food distributions.

Over the years, Jack has continued to devote his time, rain or shine (and even ice), to supporting the mission of the Food Bank at the St. John Center. He treats the St. John clients as extended family and works diligently to provide them with healthy options and a warm smile.

Jack says the best thing about volunteering at the Food Bank is “seeing how your time directly affects those in need.”

“People are very grateful and sometimes even cry when you help them out,” he says.

Agency Relations Representative Kara Prior says the Food Bank is “blessed” to have Jack as a Volunteer Leader.

“St. John’s would not be the same without Jack’s positive attitude and remarkable work ethic,” she says.

We completely agree and are more than honored to recognize Jack Harrington as our Volunteer Leader of the Quarter.

If you’re interested in joining our volunteer family, you can learn about opportunities and sign up for your first shift here.


How do you choose between two things you can’t live without?

April 10th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A new study shows one in three U.S. adults with a chronic disease has trouble affording food, medicine or both.

food and medicine infographic

According to the study, people who struggle to pay for food are more likely to skip doses of medications because of the cost. More than 81 percent of these people have incomes at or above the federal poverty level, meaning they don’t always qualify for public assistance.

Consistent medical treatment and a healthy diet are both critical to managing chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and even mental illness. But many of the Central Texans we serve have to choose between healthy food and medicine, and some can’t really afford either.

When our clients struggle to afford food, they often have to turn to cheap, processed foods that are higher in calories and less nutrient-rich. Such a diet can be detrimental to someone living with a chronic illness.

That’s why the Food Bank has such a variety of programs and services. We work with local retailers and farmers to ensure we have plenty of fresh produce, lean proteins and whole grains to meet all our clients’ dietary needs.

Our nutrition educators help clients of all ages learn cooking skills, food safety and healthy eating on a budget. They incorporate common food pantry items into every recipe.

And our social service outreach team helps clients determine if they qualify and navigate the process of applying for a variety of public programs, including food stamps and Medicaid.

The people we serve shouldn’t have to choose between food and medicine, and we strive to ensure they never do.


‘Lord and Lady Scam Artist’ are the exception, not the rule

April 9th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Opponents of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) are using a new fraud scandal to smear the program and those who benefit from it.

Several news outlets have covered the story of Colin Chisholm III and Andrea Chisholm, a Minnesota couple who claim to be Scottish aristocrats and allegedly took more than $160,000 in welfare benefits while living in expensive homes and owning a $1.2 million yacht.

Abusing the system like this is unacceptable, and the families we serve ultimately suffer the consequences. Still, SNAP fraud is extremely rare and shouldn’t be used to justify cutting benefits for families who really need help. Here are just some of the myths we hear most often from SNAP critics:

Myth: SNAP and other federal assistance programs are rife with fraud and waste.

SNAP has a strong record of integrity. The fraud rate is only about 1 percent, and its accuracy rate of 96.2 percent is considerably higher than other major benefit programs.

Myth: Federal agencies don’t do enough to prevent and detect fraud.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aggressively investigates possible fraud cases, using SNAP purchase data to identify suspicious patterns. Electronic benefits transfer (EBT) has given the USDA new tools in detecting SNAP fraud. As a result, the fraud rate has dropped significantly over the past two decades.

Myth: Benefits often go to people who don’t really need or deserve them.

The vast majority of SNAP benefits go to the most vulnerable among us. The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of just $744, and 76 percent of these households include at least one child, elderly person or disabled person.

The need in our community is already greater than programs like SNAP can handle. Many of the Central Texans who turn to the Food Bank don’t qualify for SNAP but don’t earn enough to consistently feed themselves and their families. Or the benefits they do get aren’t enough to last them through the month.

Your Food Bank directs resources to target these deficiencies. But every time SNAP comes under fire, the gap widens and becomes harder to fill. Remind your elected officials to make hunger a priority and protect SNAP and other federal nutrition programs.


Pilot program empowers Food Bank partners

April 7th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

On a bright and early winter morning, Tommy Moose pulled his pickup into the receiving area of the local Walmart Supercenter.  As he entered through a side door, a chorus of friendly voices greeted Moose, the board president of the Fredericksburg Food Pantry. For the last six months, Moose has been coming three times a week to pick up food donations from this local store.

Fredricksburg Food Pantry

The manager on duty welcomed Moose and led him to today’s food donation. Set aside in a cooler were half a dozen boxes, all filled with multigrain bread, vegetables and several packs of yogurt. Moose was delighted.

“We serve the working class people of Fredericksburg,” Moose said. “They just can’t feed their families. But this is going to help.”

The Fredericksburg Food Pantry is one of 28 Partner Agencies that participate in Retail Pick-up Program. This pilot initiative connects food pantries, soup kitchens and faith-based organizations in the Capital Area Food Bank network to businesses that want to donate to their community. Through donor relationships cultivated by the Food Bank staff, Partner Agencies directly receive donations of perishable food, like fresh vegetables, dairy products and bakery items.

Fredricksburg Food Pantry

This efficient initiative not only results in more fresh food for the families we serve, but allows the Food Bank’s food rescue network to grow without straining limited staff and transportation resources. Since the program began in 2013, the Retail Pick-up Program has rescued 2.4 million pounds of food.

Most importantly, the Retail Pick-up Program empowers Food Bank Partner Agencies to provide fresh and healthy food to the families they serve. This nutritious food makes it possible for the Fredericksburg Food Pantry to serve over 1,300 people every month.

Fredricksburg Food Pantry

“The food helps a lot,” said Francisco, a client of the Fredericksburg Food Pantry.

Born and raised in Fredericksburg, Francisco is proud of all the local businesses he has worked for, including the famous wildflower nursery and a log cabin builder. But right now, he is focused on caring for his mother, who has had bad health recently. The family began receiving groceries from the Fredericksburg Food Pantry when Francisco needed to stretch his paycheck to cover bills and his mother’s rising medical expenses.

“Without this help, I wouldn’t be able to take care of her,” Francisco explained. “I don’t know what we would do.”

Read the current issue of Feedback to learn more about the Food Bank’s innovative approach to hunger relief.


Good Vibes from Music Lovers Helping End Hunger

April 5th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

We’ve barely recovered from SXSW and it’s already time for Austin’s next big music festival of the spring: the 2014 Austin Reggae Festival.

Reggae Fest 2013

Now entering its 21st year, the festival is enjoying the fresh digs of Butler Park while Auditorium Shores is under construction and will feature the same blend of reggae, dub, soul, ska and dance-hall music that have made the event popular. Food and craft vendors round out the three-day festival and a portion of ticket sales benefit us here at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.

We’re looking forward to making an even bigger impact in 2014, but we need your help. Schedule your online shift now, and enjoy one of Austin’s iconic festivals while giving back to your community.

Over the past two decades Reggae Fest has raised over a million dollars to help fight hunger in Central Texas, but that wouldn’t be possible without our wonderful volunteers. Last year 400 of you gave your time and helped us raise 630,000 meals, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Thanks to your hard work, this festival is our Number 1 fundraising event of the year.

sign up to volunteer

Event Details

When: Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 20
Where: Butler Park, 1000 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704

Volunteer shifts are 3 ½ hours and are open to volunteers ages 18 and older. Group volunteer opportunities are available. Please contact the Food Bank at 512-282-2111 for more information. After their shifts, volunteers are welcome to stay and enjoy the festival.

Thanks for being part of the Food Bank family, and we look forward to seeing you there.


Everything’s Bigger in Texas, Even Hunger

April 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

When it comes to rising out of poverty, Texans have a steep climb. A new Gallup report shows 21 percent of Texans struggle to afford food, above the national average of 18.9 percent.

Hunger is a growing problem across the country as the average cost of living—including food prices—has gone up while incomes have remained stagnant. But social and economic factors unique to Texas mean our neighbors often have it tougher than folks in other states.

education inforgraphic

Texas falls behind the national average in educational outcomes and median household income. Our unemployment rate is low compared to the rest of the country, but a higher percentage of Texans work in low-wage jobs.

low-wage jobs infographic

It’s easy to see why more Texans struggle to access the nutritious food they need live healthy, productive lives. That’s why our work at the Food Bank is so important right here in Central Texas. With your support, we can connect our neighbors with the resources to pull themselves out of poverty.