Food Pantry helps combat food insecurity

Alpine Food Pantry board members Mari Lou Martin, Jan Moeller, Hugh Garrett, and Tony Sforza stand outside the food pantry in Alpine, ready to serve the needs of hungry north Brewster County residents. 

For many needy residents of northern Brewster County, the Alpine Food Pantry is an organization where they can turn for help. The pantry has made a positive impact in the community in the fight against hunger, all while looking toward a bright future.

The Food Pantry was established as a nonprofit in 2009, and its mission is to provide monthly supplemental food to qualified residents of Alpine and Marathon.

Alpine resident Rob Matthews currently serves as president of the board of directors, joining board members Jan Moeller, Hugh Garrett, Gary Nichols, Mari Lou Martin, Jesus Rodriguez, and Kathy Bork.

The Pantry purchases food at significant discounts directly from the West Texas Food Bank, which serves 19 counties in Far West Texas. Food is then distributed to residents who meet income requirements as determined by the USDA, as well as residency requirements established by the Pantry.

The Pantry supplements its supplies with purchases from local grocery stores, and is operated entirely by a dedicated group of volunteers. It relies on support from local organizations such as the Border Patrol, community businesses, schools, churches, civic organizations, and individuals. Margaret Matthews is the Pantry’s volunteer coordinator. Matthews works with the National Honor Society from Alpine High School, led by Caroline Fox. Honor Society students are required to put in 20 hours of community service, and volunteering at the Food Pantry is one way they can earn credit. Students perform a variety of tasks such as assisting clients, distributing food, bagging, and stocking the shelves.

Not surprisingly, with the shutdowns affecting people’s incomes, more clients are now in need. “We have seen an increase of about 20% in the last two months of people wanting supplemental food,” said Matthews. “Some of our clients may have lost their jobs, and some people like the elderly, we feed every month.”

The coronavirus has also changed the way food is being distributed, and now no one is allowed inside the building other than the volunteers, who preload bags of food for the clients and take them to the awaiting vehicles.

The Pantry has several long-term goals designed to better serve the needs of the community. Some include instituting a children’s backpack program to provide food for qualified children on weekends when they are not served by school programs, cooking classes focusing on nutrition, and expansion of the senior box program.

The organization’s building committee has begun designing a 4,000 square foot Mueller, Inc., steel building. Mueller’s Helping Hand project awards a building to a deserving non-profit organization in Texas, and the Pantry is hoping to become the recipient.

Matthews praised the zealous efforts of the Pantry’s board members, adding, “We are very passionate about the food insecurity in our community. It’s extremely rewarding and a great sense of pride to be able to help people that simply need a helping hand. I think we are making a 

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