La Joya housing authority to open food pantry

The new executive director of the La Joya Housing Authority, Ruben O. Villarreal, is seeking to implement new programs for the tenants and the first among them is a food pantry which is expected to open next week.

The food pantry will be open to tenants every Tuesday and Wednesday at 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., though Villarreal said non-residents won’t be turned away.

Individuals who want to participate will only have to note down their names along with what they took from the pantry, as required by the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley.

Though a ribbon-cutting was held on Oct. 2, the food pantry won’t be open until Oct. 15.

Villarreal acknowledged that the housing authority had its share of problems, from legal to financial, that had plagued their past executive directors and past board members.

“It’s no secret that the La Joya Housing Authority is a troubled agency and I had to come up with a way to bring needed resources for little or no money and that’s exactly what it was,” he said, later adding that the endeavor came at no cost. “I used the built in resources that I know because of my community work and because of my wife and our mutual friends.”

Within a week of his hiring, three of their staff were trained in food safety.

The food bank also awarded the housing authority a one-year scholarship of non-perishable food.

Villarreal appeared encouraged that many would take advantage of the pantry given the response last week to an offering of free watermelons,

He explained the Food Bank brought 120 watermelons and they decided to post they were giving them away on social media.

“I’m pleased to report that they were gone in less than two hours,” Villarreal said. “For me, that was the best example of how much those types of services are needed in the west side of the Valley.”