Shaun stands in line with a small, wheeled basket waiting for her turn to go through the Food Bank’s Partner Agency, Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry, in Waco. She doesn’t have a car and will have to travel on the bus with all her food, but she doesn’t mind.
Shaun used to be a registered nurse and never imagined she’d set foot in a food pantry seeking assistance. After injuring her shoulder during a roller blading incident, she could no longer practice patient care.
“I was a nurse and I never thought I would have to depend on something like this, but it helps. I am dependent on it,” she said.
Her income was reduced to only her disability benefits. After paying rent, utilities and medical expenses, she only has about $150 left for groceries and personal expenses. Not enough to be able to buy protein and produce.
Thanks to the pantry, she is able to have a full-balanced meal. She buys protein at the store and supplements her groceries with produce like carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, onions and more. She gets “everything you need for a good pot of stew,” she said.
“I like to come for the fresh fruits and vegetables,” Shaun said. “If I get my fruits and vegetables here, it just leaves more money for the grocery store for meat and things like that.”
She is nearly one of 48,000 McLennan County residents who face hunger. Though the Food Bank has served McLennan County since the early 1990s, new initiatives, like the produce hub located at Caritas of Waco, have now allowed a larger increase in produce distribution in the Waco area.
The produce hub is a used 40-foot-long shipping container that was purchased by the Food Bank and retrofitted with insulation and a refrigeration unit to serve as a cold storage space for fresh produce. It provides easy access for local food pantries and soup kitchens in the Waco area that come to stock up on fresh produce for the people they serve.
Recently, the Caterpillar Foundation awarded the Food Bank a $28,632 grant to support the produce hub. We can’t thank them enough for helping us serve the more than 23,000 individuals in McLennan County who rely on the Food Bank each month.
“The Caterpillar Foundation is committed to supporting programs that alleviate poverty. We are proud to partner with the Central Texas Food Bank to support our neighbors who struggle with hunger,” said Michele Sullivan, president of the Caterpillar Foundation.
The grant will help provide 170,428 meals to McLennan County families in need like Shaun’s. Without the produce she receives at the pantry, she would go without eating any produce at all, she said.
The food she receives at her pantry allows her to save money at the grocery store and to lead a healthier lifestyle.
“I really appreciate all this. It helps a lot. If it weren’t for my ability to come out to a place like this and get the vegetables and the fruits, I probably would be eating a lot of more processed foods,” Shaun said. “It helps you to maintain a healthier lifestyle. I appreciate it a lot. I don’t know what I would without help from people that donate to the food banks.”