Caritas of Waco is asking for canned food donations. They’ve had a busy summer with more people using their food bank than usual. KWBU’s Ryland Barton stopped by Caritas to learn about the shortage and talk with the executive director of Caritas Waco, Buddy Edwards.
Families that come to the Caritas food pantry typically get a 70 lb bag of food, depending on the size of the family. In June of this year, Caritas of Waco served over 2,200 families compared to 1,850 last June. In July, they served about 2,400 families compared to 2,100 in July of 2014. Buddy Edwards is the executive director of Caritas. He says the spike in traffic has led to a shortage of food in the pantry.
"We’ve been a little short recently because of the large number of clients coming in through is in our canned goods," Edwards said. "We’ve had an adequate amount of canned corn, but the canned vegetable items that we typically have available have been in short supply."
The Capital Area Food Bank supplies about a third of the food at Caritas and they also provide food for pantries across 21 counties in Central Texas. Edwards says demand for food in the area has been up, and the supply has been dwindling. So pantries like Caritas are scraping the bottom of the barrel.
"What we’re doing now is trying to supplement the lack of canned goods with other items," Edwards said. "We are fortunate with the fact that we do get a lot of fresh produce. We have received a grant to be able to purchase fresh produce, but we also have some of our local partners"
So what’s causing the spike of demand in the area? Well, part of it is summer: kids are eating at home that would normally be in the free or reduced price lunch programs in public schools. But on a grander level, Edwards says that the economic recovery hasn’t trickled down to the people he serves yet.
"We see a lot of people that come here that are working multiple jobs just to try and make ends meet," Edwards said. "And for example when we had the economic downturn in ‘08, our client volume just escalated immediately. And prior to that time, we were probably serving 12-150 families a month. And now it continuously averages right around the 2000+ families a month."
Low wages and poverty have confounded city leaders for years. A study commissioned by the City of Waco last year showed that 40 percent of Waco households make less than $25,000 a year.
"It’s not that people aren’t working," Edwards said. "It’s just that many people are just not able to make enough off the jobs that they are currently having to be able to rise above poverty."