As one of the largest hunger relief agencies in Houston, Target Hunger has been working to impact change in the northeast Houston communities we serve for thirty years. And, every day, our dedicated staff take their places on the front lines of poverty, hunger and food insecurity.
A two-time retiree, Jackie began volunteering with us in September 2017, immediately after Hurricane Harvey. Now she serves as the pantry coordinator for our Northeast Pantry and our pantry located at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, two of Target Hunger’s six food distribution sites. This is Jackie’s story:
I had one client who really impacted me, and I guess being in this line of work, it can happen; some clients just find their way to your heart.
A young mother, Dana came into the pantry with five of her children looking for help. We discussed what documentation she would need to become a registered client and receive ongoing food assistance. While we were chatting, one of her little boys asked, through his tears “Mom I thought you said we were going to eat here?” Dana turned to her son and tried to explain to him that they couldn’t eat here. After her little boy kept reminding her how hungry he was, Dana shared that she and her children had recently moved to Houston from Georgia with nothing. She talked about how hard it has been on her with so few resources. As difficult as this interaction with Dana and her children was for me, they soon left with an “emergency food bag,” while also leaving me with a sense of purpose.
The following day, Dana arrived at the pantry with every document needed to register herself and her children for Target Hunger’s pantry program, making her eligible to receive supplemental food assistance every month until she can get on her feet. She was very careful to share how thankful she was. “My children were able to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. To some people that may seem small, but for my family it meant everything.”
Dana had never experienced a place like Target Hunger. During her time of need, we helped her, and that is exactly why we are here. Most of us don’t realize how many families don’t have food to eat. I didn’t fully understand until I started volunteering with Target Hunger after Harvey.
The families that walk through the Northeast Pantry for the first time are often hesitant to ask for help. When they come back, they come waving and smiling, because they know someone at Target Hunger cares. That's a fantastic feeling for me.
Last year, Target Hunger distributed more than 4 million pounds of food to an unduplicated count of 31,000 community members in need. Nearly sixty percent of the people that received food assistance during this period were residents of Target Hunger's primary distribution area. All five zip code areas that comprise this primary distribution area have been identified as one of Houston’s fifteen poorest zip codes, out of 178 that make up the city and all five have been designated by the USDA as “food deserts,” which translates to people who live in these areas having limited access to nutritious and affordable food. Additionally, 4 of the 5 zip code areas that Target Hunger serves are included in the top twenty-two low-income zip codes hard-hit by Hurricane Harvey.