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Wichita Falls Living Magazine

Appetite for Serving

Wichita Falls Area Food Bank fights hunger with food resources and education

Written by Becca Sankey
Photos courtesy of Simon Welch, Wichita Falls Area Food Bank

As Marketing Director of the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank, Simon Welch has witnessed members of his community during some of their most humbling, difficult moments. Times they were unable to fulfill their most basic needs. He’s also been in that situation himself, growing up one of three children to a single mother who struggled to make ends meet. “She was working three jobs and barely staying ahead, we had to use food pantries to have groceries,” Welch shared. “So, it’s one of those things that’s always been important to me. Food isn’t a luxury; you need it to survive. It’s so rewarding to work for a place that helps people with their basic needs, and to be able to put that in perspective for people who have never wanted before, to see the ‘a-ha!’ moment for people who didn’t understand why we exist.”

The Wichita Falls Area Food Bank (WFAFB) was established in 1982 and the following year moved to its current location at 1230 Midwestern Parkway in Wichita Falls. Welch said in 2020 it distributed just over 4 million pounds of food to 272,761 people. By November of 2021 the food bank exceeded the previous year’s numbers as it gave 4,233,642 pounds of food to 218,531 people. 

The food bank has a warehouse which provides food to pantries within a 12-county region, each with their own specific distribution guidelines. Welch said some pantries allow individuals to come once a month. However, the food bank operates its own mobile pantry, which travels to 9 locations within Wichita Falls area and does not have limitations regarding how often a family or individual can receive its aid. Welch said the food bank sees increased need during the summer months when children aren’t in school and the free or reduced-cost lunches received there are unavailable.  The holidays also spark a demand surge, when families gather and the weather changes. Welch said, “We see a huge increase around Thanksgiving and Christmastime.” It’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to increased demand. “Job loss has a lot to do with it, but it’s not our job to question why you’re hungry,” Welch said. “We’re just here to help feed you.”

The foodbank receives funding to purchase perishable and non-perishable food through grants and individual donations. “We have a special grant writer who seeks out grants,” Welch said. “Some might think we get the majority of our support from the government, but they truly only reimburse us for a few of our programs.” Welch credits members of the Wichita Falls community for a significant portion of the food bank’s ability to operate. He said, “We are so thankful to those in our community who give us the means to support our hungry friends and neighbors.” 
The food bank receives community support through several avenues. It is a participant in Hunters for the Hungry, a program facilitating the donation of harvested game through program-approved processors. Meat packaged by an individual cannot be accepted. Aside from produce, food donated must have a label so individuals who want to help may drop off perishable or non-perishable food at the food bank’s warehouse. However, monetary donations are preferred because the food bank can purchase food at a wholesale rate, much like a supermarket can. “We call it Good Buy Hunger,” Welch said. “Whereas most people can pick up a can of corn for 83 cents, we can maybe get two cans.” Purchasing their own food is more convenient from a workload perspective as well. Welch said, “It’s a little easier for us when we get food we’ve bought because we don’t have to go through the process of cleaning, sorting, and checking food that comes in.”

Volunteers are essential to the food bank’s operations. “We have less than 30 employees for everything, so we are gravely dependent on volunteers to help sort food and help at our mobile pantries,” Welch said.

"Though not overly staffed, the WFAFB does more than provide free food to distribution locations." It’s social services program covers 12 counties. This program allows food bank employees to help those in need apply for government assistance, and even make house calls to assist people without internet service. Additionally, the Nutrition Education Department’s Grocery Store Tour program accompanies individuals to supermarkets and educates them on wise food purchasing decisions. “They also have a class called Cooking Matters, which teaches people how to use the food items we give them,” Welch said. “We have things that can really last a long time, like chickpeas and lentils, but a lot of people don’t how to use those. So, with this class we can teach them to actually utilize what they’re getting from the food bank.”

Despite all the services available, sometimes groceries are all one needs. Susan (whose name has been changed to protect her privacy) came to a WFAFB mobile pantry and confided to Welch that her father had recently passed away, and she had incurred the funeral expenses. She then inherited his house, which came with its own expenses. Compounding her financial situation was her boyfriend’s job loss because of an injury there, as well as her own stint of unemployment so she could care for him. Both now had jobs again, but they were strapped for cash until her first paycheck.

“She kept seeing these pantries but passed them by because of pride,” Welch said. “But our job is to make sure people know there’s no shame in getting help. We’re all one catastrophic event away from needing some sort of help.” Thanks to two weeks worth of groceries from the food pantry, Susan was able to pay off some outstanding bills and regain her footing financially. She now donates to the food bank, paying it forward to the organization that helped her during a brief—but nonetheless difficult—time. “It’s amazing to see because she knows it all goes back to helping people like her,” Welch said.

Nearly 40 years after its inception, the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank is still a vital community program to countless people like Susan. “There’s 4.4 million pounds of food that wouldn’t be accounted for if it weren’t for our program,” Welch said. “Those people wouldn’t have it, and there wouldn’t be people distributing it.” †

To volunteer or donate to the WFAFB, or receive assistance, call 940-766-2322.
More information can also be found on its website at
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