El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank is increasing access to food for residents facing hunger in far West Texas with assistance from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.
As the nation’s sixth-largest food bank by distribution, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger serves people at its distribution center, as well as at more than 130 partner pantries and almost 1,000 mobile distribution sites. In 2022, it distributed nearly 94 million pounds of food.
The food bank serves as many as 1,600 people daily and tries to offer baked goods, dairy products, meat and fresh fruits and vegetables, CEO Susan Goodall says. It’s an immense task because much of what’s provided comes from outside the area. Drivers crisscross the country to bring back food to help people in need.
“We are traveling to all the 48 continental states, and we still struggle to get enough food,” she says. “Our organization has achieved remarkable growth over the past few years. This success presents us with the need for more resources to match our expanding size.”
With help from a $25,000 BCBSTX Blue Impact℠ grant, the food bank is continuing to carry out its work as more people seek food assistance in the El Paso area. El Pasoans Fighting Hunger is among several BCBSTX grant recipients statewide working to address social determinants of health, including nutrition and access to transportation and physical activity.
“For decades, we have worked in close collaboration with local community organizations and partners, leveraging their knowledge, experience and talents on a local level to help support healthier communities,” says Sheena Payne, BCBSTX community investments director. “We’re committed to sustainable solutions with community partners to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who need it most and to lay the groundwork for economic empowerment.”
In El Paso, 1 in every 3 children and 1 in every 4 adults are food insecure. El Pasoans Fighting Hunger tries to reach as many people as possible with programs targeting school districts, underserved neighborhoods, low-income older residents and a surge of migrants who have crossed the border from Mexico.
“We have clients who are working two and three jobs and they still don’t make enough money to buy food, medicine and gasoline,” Goodall says.
To expand services, the food bank is raising $2.5 million for construction of three food processing rooms with refrigeration to prepare, repack and sort food.
Meantime, the organization relaunched a Food FARMacy program it started during the COVID-19 outbreak to help people with chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes gain access to healthier foods. The food bank collaborates with health care providers to identify patients who could benefit from the Food FARMacy program, and its dietitian provides nutrition education and personalized counseling sessions to help patients manage their conditions.
“Our goal for the new and improved Food FARMacy program is to empower our food-insecure participants to manage their medical conditions through food-related behavior and lifestyle changes,” Goodall says.