Nacogdoches HOPE food pantry is asking for volunteers and donations as it has seen an increase in families needing assistants.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Nacogdoches residents have lost their jobs and have been struggling financially, turning to Nacogdoches HOPE for help. In 2019, the food pantry reported a 21% increase of families it serves, but in 2020 it is reporting a 114% increase with April being its busiest month.

Kathy Griffin, a worker for Nacogdoches HOPE, said the food pantry is in desperate need for volunteers because they are down to just a few people working. Sometimes, they get 300 cars in one day.

Nacogdoches HOPE is currently following CDC guidelines for COVID-19. All volunteers are required to wear a mask and practice safe social distancing. Families in need can go through a drive through service where a bag of food is delivered to their car. This routine is different from what they normally do to help slow down the spread of the virus.

Victoria Christopher, a senior nutrition major from Tyler, is the food pantry’s intern. She encourages students to come out and help because they have a shortage of volunteers. Normally, people who volunteer are over the age of 60. If people don’t feel comfortable volunteering because of COVID-19, Christopher said there are other ways to help to food pantry too.

“We are always taking donations, so anyone who wants to donate canned goods or money, they can do that,” Christopher said. “They can also sign up to volunteer. Any person that wants to volunteer, they just have to get with the volunteer coordinator. Especially if students are in an organization, hosting food drives or anything to get donations would be something they can get involved in.”

If students decide to volunteer, they would be helping to put together boxes, taking them out to the family’s car and helping with produce. Christopher would like to see students get involved with the food pantry because she really enjoys working there and meeting new people around Nacogdoches.

“Just getting involved with the community is a big part of what we do,” Christopher said. “It would be awesome for students to get involved with the community and help people in need.”

Boxes are distributed on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and fresh produce on Thursdays 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Nacogdoches HOPE was established in 1994, and families can visit the pantry once a month to get food. It is a client choice food pantry to meet the needs of people with dietary needs or food restrictions.

Nacogdoches HOPE is partnered with East Texas food bank, but also gets donations from Kroger in Nacogdoches and Target and HEB in Lufkin, which provides the pantry with fresh produce.

“We purchase our food through East Texas food bank in Tyler, and we’re one of their partner agencies,” former President of Nacogdoches HOPE, Denise Lee, said. “Part of the retail food program, we rescue about 2,000 pounds of food weekly.”

To get involved and volunteer at Nacogdoches HOPE, people can sign up on their website or private message the Nacogdoches HOPE group on Facebook.

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