United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley

by United Way of Southern Cameron County
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley
United Against Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley

Just when it felt safe to shift gears and turn our attention to more long term food insecurity solutions, inflation has hit our city--just like it has hit communities all across the country. With gas prices soaring to over $4 per gallon, families are once again making difficult choices--fill up the car with gas so they can get to work or purchase the food they need to feed the family this week. United Way of Southern Cameron County and our partners at the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley want to make sure no family in our community goes hungry at a time when the essentials of life are costing more every single day.

So here we go again. As the sun is rising on a Friday morning, we are unloading food from the Food Bank of the RGV's 18 wheeler, packaging it, and then distributing it as quickly as we can to the families who have lined up in their cars for hours to get this much needed supplement to their weekly groceries. We can judge the state of our economy by the length of our food lines, and they're getting longer every week. Thousands of families need this help, and thanks to you we can provide it.

Stay tuned. This work is important. We are doing everything we can to stretch your gift and help as many families as possible, but if you are able to pitch in a little more right now it would be a big help.Thanks for what you're already given. Because of you we have provided over 7 million meals, and we're not done yet.

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Food Bank of the RGV is an essential partner
Food Bank of the RGV is an essential partner

United Way of Southern Cameron County is looking at hunger from both sides now. We're examining the systemic issues that have created a significant disparity between food pantry access in Cameron County compared to other areas served by the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley. The Food Bank RGV is located approximately 60 miles from southern Cameron County, and the outreach to local pantries and potential pantry sites is less robust than in the area surrounding the food bank's physical location near McAllen. We are strategizing with our partners at the Food Bank of the RGV to locate funding to construct a satellite facility in Brownsville to serve and expand local pantries.

At the same time, we are increasing the capacity of our only soup kitchen by using your funding to repair and upgrade their kitchen equipment. During the freeze of 2021 with its days of power outages, the soup kitchen lost the compressors for both of its large scale freezers. Because of your generosity, United Way of Southern Cameron County was able to pay for immediate repairs to those important appliances. We are now considering adding generators to the soup kitchen so that we won't be working by candlelight during the next big weather event.

So, the work continues, both at a high level and deep into the weeds as we continue to look for ways to provide food for our friends and neighbors in one of the poorest communities in the United States. Thank you for being our partner in this life-changing initiative.

We grow the fresh foods our community needs.
We grow the fresh foods our community needs.
The soup kitchen remains busy.
The soup kitchen remains busy.
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What has your gift to United Against Hunger accomplished?

We think you'll be amazed.

  • 21 furloughed restaurant workers got their Forklift Operator certifications while working shifts at Good Neighbor Settlement House
  • Get Shift Done workers delivered hot meals to homebound seniors for more than a year.
  • Ozanam Center's emergency food pantry went from being open one day per month to two days per week, serving 650 families every week.
  • 12 Get Shift Done workers are now full time employees at their agency they served. These furloughed restaurant workers fell in love with nonprofit service and changed careers!
  • Your gift provided over 7 MILLION MEALS to hungry families in the Rio Grande Valley. We hope you feel great about that!

Thank you for helping us respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic chaos it created.

Links:

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Volunteer Loads Emergency Food
Volunteer Loads Emergency Food

United Against Hunger began in April 2019 to address food insecurity in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The need for food, both served meals and emergency food supplies (pantry bags), was growing exponentially, often doubling in a single week. Clearly we had to find a solution to get more food to more people more quickly.

At the same time that demand was soaring, volunteers began to shelter-in-place, and our pantries, soup kitchens, and meals on wheels services for seniors found themselves without the personnel they needed to meet the demand. Additionally, restaurant workers were laid off at disproportionately higher rates than office workers, most of whom could work remotely. We needed people and we needed greatly increased capacity, and we needed it immediately.

We decided to offer the people who KNOW food the opportunity to help the people who NEED food, and we used a brilliant app called Get Shift Done, which allowed us to connect furloughed restaurant workers with nonprofits that needed help desperately. It was a win/win--the soup kitchens, pantries, meals on wheels and food banks got workers who were experienced, fast and motivated. The workers got supplemental income from United Way of Southern Cameron County. And almost without missing a beat we were able to get food to those who needed it most.

For sixteen months this model worked brilliantly. Our Get Shift Done workers put in 82,000 hours of hard work, earning total wages of $820,000. Our United Against Hunger nonprofits partnered together to ensure that we maximized the results of our efforts. We made sure that those who were suffering financially because of the pandemic had food on the table, and your gift made that possible.

Now that unemployment has dropped, stimulus payments have hit people's accounting, and food insecurity is being addressed in a robust way with federal funding our attention is shifting to the population still in need--the elderly. We are developing strategies to get food to this vulnerable population in a regular and consistent manner. Stay tuned for more on this exciting shift in United Against Hunger strategies.

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Every Friday as the sun rises we distribute food
Every Friday as the sun rises we distribute food

Every Friday morning for more than a year, our staff and volunteers wake before dawn to prepare for our weekly mass food distribution which alternates between the Southmost area of Brownsville and the Brownsville Events Center.

This morning, eight National Guard troops, twelve University of Texas RGV students and 25 furloughed restaurant workers who signed up through Get Shift Done distributed bags of shelf-stable pantry items and gorgeous fresh produce to 2,500 families. Some of these families slept in their cars at the distribution site to ensure they would receive food, and the lines for the distribution extend for miles. 

People who have never experienced food insecurity before are experiencing it now. Unemployment in our region continues to climb, and families are making hard choices about where to spend what money they have. Rent or medicine? Food or utilities? Your gift makes things a bit easier during these very tough times. You help put food on the table so the lights can stay on. A diabetic can purchase insulin. The internet connection a student needs to participate in school is still available.

Everyone needs food, and you're making it available to those who otherwise would go hungry. Feel good about that!

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Organization Information

United Way of Southern Cameron County

Location: Brownsville, TX - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @unitedwayrgv
Project Leader:
Traci Wickett
Brownsville, TX United States
$7,211 raised of $25,000 goal
 
70 donations
$17,789 to go
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