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When it comes to helping Texas families, the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a wave of innovation and service expansion to meet an unprecedented level of need.

The San Antonio Food Bank brought forth a handful of innovations during the pandemic, innovations that have proven so successful they are now permanently available to under-resourced households. Food Bank innovations include: curbside pick-up (like at your favorite restaurant or grocery store), home delivery of perishable and nonperishable food items (similar to a Meals on Wheels meal delivery but this is the raw ingredients for those who can still prepare their own meals at home), and of course, mobile food distributions in large parking lots across all sectors of the region.

Finding help from the Food Bank is also easier than ever. Individuals needing help are encouraged to visit www.safoodbank.org/help/. Here they will find details about how to access food, public benefits (SNAP, WIC, CHIP, and much more), and work opportunities. If desired, they can connect by phone to a bilingual help center staff member who can help them navigate the options available.

The Food Bank is a source of community support and hope for many families in the region, like Ann Marie’s family. Married for 25 years, Ann Marie faced difficulty during the last five years of her marriage as diabetes and depression slowly affected her and her husband’s physical and mental health. As many neighbors fighting diabetes experience challenges, Ann Marie’s family was impacted after her husband lost both of his legs to diabetes. Depression began to take its toll on her husband after the loss of his first leg, and after the loss of his second she noticed his depression increased.

And now that he’s passed away, Ann Marie is a single mom of four — Daniel (age 29), Sabrina (25), Brook (12), and Noah (10).

“My soul lives and breathes for my kids. I will do anything to support them. My daily concern is to make money and feed them,” Ann Marie said.

For Ann Marie, doing what it takes is ingrained. This can mean juggling multiple side jobs — mowing lawns, painting, donating plasma — and if there is an opportunity to provide for her family, she will. The pandemic has made all of us pivot. For Ann Marie, donating plasma every 28 days, and platelets every seven days, has become etched in her schedule to make ends meet.

Living close to the San Antonio Food Bank allowed Ann Marie to witness food distributions for the first time. Viewing the Food Bank as a community resource, and identifying the need for her family, she decided to call and learn about how her family could get signed up to receive food assistance.

“I didn’t know you were on my side this whole time — I had no clue all these services were available for my family!” Ann Marie said.

Receiving support from the Food Bank has enabled her family to make important decisions without food insecurity looming. Ann Marie’s youngest child, Noah, was just accepted to Compass Rose, a public charter school that focuses on robotics, engineering, entrepreneurship, and computer science.

Ann Marie explains, “This is the first good fortune our family has had in a while. With this and the Food Bank being a source we can lean on, I am truly grateful. You have taken us all out of a dark time.”

Beyond emergency food assistance, many federal nutrition programs were expanded and improved during the pandemic to help parents provide food and other essential resources for their kids. One program expansion that will prove transformative for households with children is the newly enhanced Child Tax Credit.

The Child Tax Credit is a tax refund designed to help families with the expense of raising a child. This year, the benefit was expanded to help families with the most need — those who aren’t required to file taxes because they have little to no income. While many families will receive this benefit automatically, these families will need to enroll at GetCTC.org/strength by Nov. 15.

You can help spread the word about the Child Tax Credit in your community using this Resource Toolkit from No Kid Hungry, which includes ready-to-use and customizable resources you can share on social media, in your newsletter, or by hanging flyers in your community.

Local community resources alongside expanded federal benefits have been a critical lifeline throughout the pandemic. Now, you can help your friends, family, and neighbors rebuild by making sure they know about the expanded services being offered by the San Antonio Food Bank, as well as federal benefits like the Child Tax Credit and SNAP.

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Michael Guerra and Stacie Sanchez Hare

Michael Guerra is the chief development officer for the San Antonio Food Bank. Stacie Sanchez Hare is the director of No Kid Hungry Texas, a campaign working to end childhood hunger.