By Britanny Barcliff, 2019-2020 Literacy First Tutor
I have been working alongside Austin Voices for Education and Youth for the past year and a half, as I started volunteering with them for my community partnership as a Literacy First tutor. I have been able to help as they unloaded trucks full of food pallets from the Central Texas Food Bank and then worked in an assembly-line fashion to prepare bags for families to bring home. We have been working hard to ensure that families have nutritious food to get through this time of increased uncertainty.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families are dealing with loss of income, facing food scarcity and fearful of their normal grocery runs. Austin Voices for Education and Youth has collaborated with the Central Texas Food Bank and the Austin Independent School District to provide meal services during extended school closures. Austin Voices Family Resource Centers’ meal services have been expanded community-wide and face a much higher demand than usual. Most school sites normally serve somewhere between 60 and 100 families in their normal operation. In these past two weeks, we were able to serve over 687 families at four drive-through pantries. We have created drive-through pantries so that families can come to the school site in their car and have two bags of food placed in their trunk or backseat. In following health precautions, such as keeping 6 feet distance, wearing gloves, and ensuring minimal contact between people, we are able to ensure families have safe access to a bag of fresh produce and a bag of dried and canned goods, including proteins, bread and eggs.
To be living in such an uncertain time has been heart-opening. I am so fortunate for the support systems I have around me. I have seen firsthand the impact on families that don’t have access to some of the resources that I may have previously taken for granted. I have seen the look of fear on a mother’s face as she asks “is this bag for one family?”, realizing that the food we are offering may last her family of five just a few short days. I have seen three families in a single vehicle, as friends help others who would otherwise not have transportation to the meal sites.
For as long as I’m able to, I will continue to unload pallets, load groceries, and offer each family a heartfelt smile as they roll through our makeshift drive-through, because I am truly grateful inside. I am grateful to be connected to organizations who put their all into ensuring their fellow neighbors are safe and cared for. I am grateful to be a part of a team that has such strong character and resilience. I am grateful that I am able to stand in good health and offer my own time and strength to someone who may need it more. I am grateful to be living through this pandemic, holding onto peace.
I hope that this time of heightened uncertainty doesn’t last longer than it need, and I hope that each family we have served rests a little easier at night, knowing that there are community members around them ready to rise to the challenge and have their neighbor’s back. I hope that Literacy First tutors are able to return to schools and see the smiles of our students once more. Most of all, though, I hope humanity learns a lesson in compassion and team work, because we all deserve the security of a community that cares.