(BASTROP) Neighbors helping neighbors is the Bastrop County way. The Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry is celebrating this spirit of volunteerism as it kicks off its thirtieth anniversary this year.
Not only do community organizations hold food drives throughout the year to benefit the pantry, but weekly, volunteers serve at the pantry located at 1201 Pine Street in historic downtown Bastrop. From inventorying donations to distributing brown bag meals to the disabled or elderly, volunteers are the most important asset to the Pantry.
At the end of this month, volunteers support the Food Pantry efforts at the Empty Bowl Project. This event, which according to Executive Director Tresha Silva provides key financial support to the Pantry, happens with the help of volunteers of all ages.
Art students, attending seven of the BISD schools, are creating hand-painted ceramic bowls that upwards of 600 foodies will use as they taste soups, stews, and chilis prepared by more than 20 of Bastrop County’s leading restaurants and caterers in the “battle of the ladles.” Local artists, whose hand-crafted items will be auctioned in the silent auction, and musicians round out those volunteering to make this fundraising event a success.
“The Empty Bowl event funds a major portion of the Food Pantry budget, and its success is absolutely fundamental to our ability to deal head-on with poverty across the county,” Silva said.
Those interested can enjoy the food, crafts, and music from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Bastrop High School cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25.
Founded in 1987 by Jewell Hodges who served as the Food Pantry’s CEO until retirement in May 2002, the Pantry has provided 301,477 pounds of food to 10,302 households just in 2016. Additionally, volunteers offered client training programs in areas of finance, nutrition, and safeguarding health. Under the current executive director Tresha Silva, services have been expanded from providing food to qualifying clients facing emergency circumstances to programs like the brown bag meal day and whole grain pick up days.
During the once-a-month brown bag day, volunteers create and distribute a grocery bag full of ingredients for qualifying clients to prepare a healthy meal. And these ingredients are not just comprised of canned goods. In partnership with various grocery stores and restaurants within the community, the Pantry is able to provide fresh foods including vegetables, fruits, whole grain items, eggs, dairy, and meats.
On the third Friday of each month in conjunction with the Capital Area Food Bank, the Pantry hosts a community-wide Fresh Foods for Families. From cases of bananas to stacks of potatoes, this large-scale event is generally organized by volunteers from local organizations. Any member of the Bastrop County community can bring their shopping bag to receive food on a first-come, first serve basis.
Those not able to volunteer time, help support the Pantry through monetary donations. For every cash contribution of 15 cents, the Pantry is able to purchase a pound of food from the Capital Area Food Bank.
“Last month alone we serviced 725 clients and distributed over 25000 pounds of food. All of this with only six (6) permanent staff members,” Silva said. “This is an almost insurmountable task without the support of our fantastic volunteers.”
For those living in the Bastrop County area looking to make a difference in their community, volunteerism during this birthday year for the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry is an opportunity.