By Kerri Qunell
Imagine having to drive 30 miles for a head of lettuce or bunch of carrots. Imagine not having a car to make the drive at all, or enough money to pay for the food. Small pockets of poverty and malnutrition do exist in Central Texas, in towns of about 1,000 people—mostly migrant farmworkers, elderly and working-poor families. Places like Uhland, San Saba and Harper.
The need is there, and now so is the help.
The Capital Area Food Bank’s new Wheels of Sharing Mobile Food Pantry is helping to fill both the geographic and service gaps in emergency food assistance that exist in many rural Central Texas communities.
“Many small-town residents have to drive long distances to work,” says Diana Woods, Uhland City Manager. “They’re on fixed incomes, elderly, disabled… they can’t afford their medicines. [Towns of this size] simply don’t have the resources to provide social services, so this is a great collaboration.”
“This is so alive and so real,” says Sandra Guajardo, who, along with her sister Dora, was gathering bags of fresh carrots, potatoes, onions and corn at the first Wheels of Sharing distribution in Uhland in March. She expressed her gratitude to the Pantry personnel. “You are here to serve. People need this here.”
The state-of-the-art Wheels of Sharing vehicle (generously donated by H-E-B) is equipped with protective awnings, lighting for nighttime distribution, electricity for laptops and a multi-temperature controlled storage facility for food. Once in place, the Wheels of Sharing distribution site can serve 300–500 people, providing basic staples, fruits, vegetables and frozen foods. Guests receive about one week’s worth of food, and assistance applying for food stamps and other federal programs. As word spreads, the number of people showing up at each site increases every month. The communities help make sure their neighbors are fed.
Wiping away tears, Sandra says this is the first fresh food she’s had in months. “This is grace,” she says. “This is grace.”
Closer to home, the Mobile Pantry has recently opened its awnings to the Dove Springs neighbors in East Austin. Wheels of Sharing honors Judy Carter, who led the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas for 22 years.