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Pandemic Worsens Food Insecurity in North Texas



PLANO, TX – Saturday morning, people began lining up outside Minnie’s Food Pantry in Plano more than two hours before it opened. By the time the non-profit began distributing boxes of food, a line of cars stretched a mile and half down the street and around the corner.

“I literally dialed 911 and asked for the police officers to come help me direct traffic,” said Minnie’s Food Pantry Founder Cheryl Jackson.

That day, the pantry distributed food to just over 600 households. Jackson said the food pantry that typically feeds 5,000 people a month is now feeding 5,000 people a week.

The demand for help comes at a time the pandemic eroded the job market and an additional $600 federal weekly unemployment benefit ends. It expired on Saturday in Texas, reducing the maximum benefit back down to $521 a week. The average benefit is $349 a week, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

“I see the kids in the cars with the parents pulling up and I see the frustration and I feel it,” said Jackson.

Across the state, applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program nearly doubled in March compared to the same period last year.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission reports 219,704 SNAP applications in March of 2020 compared to 114,008 in March of 2019.

In April, applications peaked at around 417,468 compared to 114,244 last April.

In May, the state saw 215,647 applications over 140,244 for the same month last year.

June of this year, the commission reported 188,433 SNAP food assistance applications compared to 130,636 last June.

Monday, Collin County Commissioners agreed to extend food benefits under the Collin CARES Economic Assistance and Recovery program. Food card assistance will now be offered to eligible applicants for up to 16 weeks instead of eight weeks.

Jackson said she fears that without significant intervention from Congress, the demand for help will grow beyond what any non-profits are able to meet.

“Some days we are doing it at four and five locations in one day. All around this community, people everywhere are lining up for a meal and this shouldn’t be in America, it really shouldn’t be,” Jackson said.