EDINBURG — The clock had just struck 6 a.m., and dozens of members of the Texas Army National Guard were already hard at work unloading pallet after pallet of various commodities from one of the six trailers belonging to the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley here in the parking lot of H-E-B Park.
Nearly a hundred volunteers were on-hand to help prepare the batches of food for the Food Bank RGV’s Mass Drive-Thru Emergency Pantry, or DTEP, its second in about a month.
As the sun slowly began to rise on hundreds of boxes stacked in different distribution stations, the sheer scale of the operation became more visible.
Food Bank RGV held its first DTEP on May 12 at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg, in which 1,625 families were fed.
Tuesday’s DTEP looked to feed 3,000 families.
For members of the Texas Army National Guard, it’s business as usual.
“ The guys are pretty motivated,” Staff Sgt. Sergio Ortega said. “They give us the quota, how much they’re expecting for an event. Honestly, we don’t have any issues. We’re all pretty motivated to do the work.”
Oziel Veraza of Edinburg and his mother Irma Veraza were first in line to receive food. They had been in line since 3:15 a.m.
“ We need the help right now,” Oziel said as he waited in line. “I’m not working. There are four adults in the family and only one is working right now. This is helping us a lot.”
By 7:30 a.m., 14 rows of vehicles, over 30 in each row, had formed in the parking lot, and more continued to file in.
The vehicles came from Bert Ogden Arena, where they were registered for the distribution. The Edinburg Police Department established a route from the arena, traveling on the frontage road along North US Highway 281 to East Freddy Gonzalez Drive, which leads directly to H-E-B Park.
At 7:40 a.m., the lines started moving.
The guard directed traffic to one of the four distribution stations. As vehicles rolled up, they were met with a swarm of guardsmen and volunteers, who with quickness and efficiency loaded the commodities into the vehicles.
Some vehicles honked with approval as they drove away, drawing cheers from some volunteers.
“ This is gonna be our biggest, and largest, and most spectacular distribution that we’ve done since the onset of COVID-19,” said Stuart Haniff, chief executive officer of the food bank. “We’re gonna not just meet four times the need like we did last time; this time, we’re doing double that, or eight times the need.”
Among the items distributed were loaves of bread, bagels, hamburger buns, frozen eggs, chicken fajita strips, pork loins, milk, cereal, canned soups and vegetables, and various produce.
“ We realized that the need — while it’s not continuing to increase — it’s not decreasing. So we want to make sure that everyone in the Valley who’s been impacted by COVID-19 has the food they need so that they can be productive and they can get through this,” Haniff said. “We’ve never done anything like this, but we’ve never seen a crisis like this. It’s a complete team effort.”
To help support the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, monetary donations can be made by visiting the food bank’s website, www.foodbankrgv.com.