Pantries and charities scramble to get food to Dallas residents under freezing conditions
José and Alexander Guadalupe stormed through the snow and ice to get emergency supplies – pizza and water for their family and disposable diapers for their one-year-old brother.
The pandemic, blackouts, five days of freezing, and now food insecurity had hit her family hard, as had many in the working class neighborhoods of Dallas. Charities have worked across northern Texas, weighing the risk of coronavirus infection with a life-threatening freeze.
What did the family need?
“Basically everything,” said 18-year-old José as he stood in line with his younger brother at a Vickery Meadow charity.
It’s the mantra all over town when people are asked what they need. There have been no reports of food shortages, but the weather has resulted in delivery delays and early closings in some places.
Jose Guadalupe (18) (right) and his brother Alexander Guadalupe (14) carry boxes of drinking water, pizza and other groceries, which are distributed at Literacy Achieves in Vickery Meadows to local residents who live without water and who shelter their families after a winter Storm brought snow and continued temperatures in Dallas to north Texas on Thursday, February 18, 2021. (Smiley N. Pool / Employee Photographer)
Even the North Texas Food Bank, central to distributing food to those in need during disasters and during normal times, closed its doors earlier this week. Employee and driver safety is a top priority, said Valerie Stone Hawthorne, director of government relations at the 175-person agency.
They reopened on Thursday. “It’s again about meeting the increased demand in addition to the pandemic,” said Stone Hawthorne. “The trucks are on their way again.”
The nonprofit is one of 21 food banks in Texas, where nonprofits and grassroots organizers are being tested for independence like never before after the state power grid fails. Stresses in the food supply chain – and there are many – can cause delays in deliveries from pantries to grocery stores to truckers with loads of food and water unable to find fuel.
The North Texas Food Bank is closely monitoring water issues. Bottled water is even supplied by the grocery bank in El Paso, an area that is plugged into a different power grid and has not faced the problems of much of the rest of Texas.
“We’re in good shape right now, but as with all disasters, we need to forecast and plan for the months our community will recover,” said Stone Hawthorne.
Literacy Achieves got their power back on Wednesday and turned their classrooms into a distribution center. Blankets, scarves, jackets, disposable diapers and baby food moved quickly among the visitors from Eritrea, Myanmar and Mexico. Then came donations of pizza, pasta and precious pallets of bottled water. The water was piled up in the parking lot at 5:09 p.m. and was gone in about an hour.
“Aguita,” 66-year-old Jose Feliz called out to a man on the street as if it were freshly cooked. “They give away water.”
When the non-profit organization closed its door, Clara Mendoza was able to get one of the last packs of bottled water. “It’s so ugly right now,” she said of the power crisis that left many across Texas without power at record temperatures.
“All people are needy,” she said. “There is no water or food in our apartment.”
Volunteer George Tang helps unload two pallets of drinking water brought from the city of Dallas to be distributed to residents who are without water after a Thursday, February, snow and winter storm at Vickery Meadows’ nonprofit, Literacy Achieves Freezing temperatures had continued to bring northern Texas to 18, 2021, in Dallas. All of the water was distributed in just over an hour. (Smiley N. Pool / Employee Photographer)
Sarah Papert, the executive director of Literacy Achieves, said she was blessed with donations but needed more. Water was brought from the city of Dallas. Though surrounding cities have released evidence of boiling water as the pipes freeze and burst during freezing temperatures, Dallas officials said Friday that the city’s water was potable and in no danger of running out. But they urged the residents to keep it as possible.
Papert said she was concerned that refugees would need good shoes and socks. Outside the doors of the Literacy Achieves, a woman wore flip-flops as she stood in the snow talking to a neighbor.
Some of Literacy Achieves’ food supply comes from a nearby pantry connected to the major North Texas Food Bank. But hot meals came from the friendliness of strangers. Friday needed more Papert.
Darren Reynolds (left), building services maintenance manager for the city of Dallas, Javier Vasquez, building equipment maintenance worker, and George Tang, volunteer, unload two pallets of drinking water to be distributed at Literacy Achieves in Vickery Meadows to residents who are left without after a winter storm Water life brought snow and continued freezing temperatures to north Texas on Thursday, February 18, 2021 in Dallas. All of the water was distributed in just over an hour. (Smiley N. Pool / Employee Photographer)
“It’s a crisis,” said Papert. “It will take us a while to recover from all of this. Many people are without water because of broken pipes. They need food and diapers. We have a lot of children who live here. “
She walked through a preschool classroom and stared at photos of shy-eyed children and names like Ava, Bawi, Emiliano, and Taleen. “Those little angels,” said Pappert.
Nearby, a royal blue board served as a calendar with red index cards that could be changed with the dates. It was stuck in March 2020, the official start of the pandemic in a century.
“The Dallas I Know”
Danae Gutierrez muscled through the chaos. As the leader of the Harvest Project Food Rescue, she views her group as a “nonprofit villain” eager to fill the city’s gaps in emergency delivery of food that has been “rescued” from commercial distribution because it is faulty or injured. Gutierrez now works with chefs who volunteer to prepare nutritious and delicious hot meals.
Thursday night they fed about 100 people south of the dark downtown Dallas skyline. The menu consisted of lentil and vegetable soup with hot lemongrass tea. Many of the servants were homeless or dependent, she said.
Maria Avilez receives a donated hot meal from volunteers with the nonprofit Literacy Achieves in Vickery Meadows after a winter storm in Dallas brought snow and continued freezing temperatures to north Texas on Thursday, February 18, 2021. (Smiley N. Pool / Employee Photographer)
“We lost everything very quickly,” said Gutierrez. They handed out jackets, blankets and hats. Then they ran out of that too.
The last man needed warm clothes, she said. He was tall and lanky, and wore pajama bottoms and a shirt. Temperatures dropped into their 20s and teenagers later that night.
“The politicians have to step up their game,” said Gutierrez. “We don’t get enough help. They are Dallasites so we know they are great. “
Gutierrez has enough to eat to serve 3,000 this weekend. Then she would need more – and blankets and jackets too.
She was encouraged that Harvest Project brought 30 volunteers to Dallas International Street Church.
“Out in the cold. They cooked. They helped people,” she said. “This is the Dallas I know.”