LA JOYA — As the need for resources grew in line with the shutdown of businesses due to the threat of COVID-19, demand at the La Joya Housing Authority’s food pantry also more than tripled from March to April.

In March, the food pantry had 42 clients but following the measures enacted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, that number increased by nearly four times as many to 159.

“It’s no secret that the demand for food has been extraordinary in our area of western Hidalgo County,” said Ruben O. Villarreal, executive director of the La Joya Housing Authority, told the board of commissioners during a meeting Tuesday.

The housing authority’s food pantry opened in October 2019 shortly after Villarreal’s hiring as has seen customers from Rio Grande City to McAllen, Villarreal reported to the commissioners.

Since then, the food pantry serviced a total of 345 clients.

In the beginning, their pantry was open the last Thursdays and Fridays of the month. The hours have since expanded to Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Next month, they will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Villarreal said.

The food is provided free of charge by the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley through a one-year food scholarship program on the condition that the pantry be available to the community.

Individuals who would like to pick up non-perishable items from the pantry are only required to note down their names along with what they took from the pantry, as required by the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley.

“About at least 40-45% are elderly,” Villarreal said, adding the remainder are single mothers or grandmothers taking care of their grandchildren.

“It gives us a lot of satisfaction,” he said, “The fact that they take these foods and you know they’re going to people that need it.”