By Aswad Walker
Even before the pandemic hit, the greater Houston area was home to far too many families dealing with a serious lack of food on a daily basis. According to a 2020 survey by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), 13.9% of the Houston/Harris County population reported being food insecure (lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food). And children suffered most, as nearly one in four youth under the age of 18 in Houston/Harris County were food insecure.
Those 2020 numbers were part of a nine-year downward trend, meaning from 2011 to early 2020, the Houston area saw a lower percentage of its residents as food insecure. Then enter COVID-19.
During the pandemic, the number of Texans who “didn’t have enough to eat” in a one-week period soared to over three million in July of 2020.
Amazingly, however, those numbers dropped to just over 1.5 million by August of 2021, according to U.S. Census Household Pulse data analyzed by the report, in large part because of increased federal spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
But don’t dismiss the impact the We Are One Mobile Food Pantry, a weekly food giveaway effort, has had on pushing back on Houston-area food insecurity. The effort is led by Richard Andrews, founder of the Foundation for Black Heritage and Culture which is the organization that sponsors the city’s annual Black Heritage Fest.
“The food pantry effort was born in 2020 right after we held our 5th Annual Black Heritage Fest and COVID really took hold in the city of Houston, and we wanted to do something that really impacted the Houston community,” said Andrews. “And what better way to impact the community than to distribute fresh food, fruits and vegetables, to our community.”
Andrews said, to bring his vision of community service to life, he and his team reached out to any and everybody, including multiple Houston City Council members, Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office, the Houston Food Bank, Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural and Events Center and others.
“It is a collaborative partnership to host this food giveaway each and every Saturday from 11a.m. to 2p.m.,” said Andrews, via a huge understatement.
Besides those partners already mentioned, Andrews has been able to unite elected officials, community organizations, activists and corporate partners to this effort to stem food insecurity.