By Ari Snider
Quiet and Loud is a new series exploring the way the pandemic has changed the soundscape of West Texas.
In the second installment of the series, we go to Presidio, where the West Texas Food Bank’s monthly mobile distribution has seen a boom in demand as the economic fallout of the pandemic pushes more people into food insecurity.
Presidio resident Porfirio Levario, has been volunteering with the Food Bank for around three years. Today he arrived at 5 a.m. to help direct arriving cars.
Levario says he’s noticed a significant increase in the number of people seeking food assistance during the pandemic — greater food insecurity means more cars for him to park.
Cars lined up in the parking lot between the fire hall and the baseball fields in Presidio as the sun begins to rise. Some people arrive as early as 3 a.m., even though the distribution doesn’t officially begin until 7 a.m. The West Texas Food Bank has seen a significant increase in demand for food assistance across West Texas during the pandemic.
Food Bank workers unload boxes of food in the pre-dawn hours. The boxes are packed at the Food Bank’s Odessa facility and trucked down to Presidio each month.
The work continues for Levario and the other volunteers in charge of parking cars. At this point, he recognizes a lot of the people in line—Presidio’s a close-knit community. And as he manages a complex parking strategy, he takes time to chat with the regulars.
The line starts moving as the sun rises over Presidio. The increased demand for food assistance mirrors a story playing out in communities across the country as the coronavirus pandemic grinds on.
Giovanni Del Bosque is the Outreach Coordinator at the West Texas Food Bank. She and other Food Bank employees greet each arrival and check them in before they pick up their food. Del Bosque says in to serving more Presidio residents, they’re also seeing people coming in from the nearby communities of Shafter and Ruidosa.
Crystal Lujin, of Presidio, waits in the car with her daughter, Michelle. Lujin has been coming to the Presidio outreach since before the pandemic began, but the pandemic has made things harder for her — she works at a restaurant and says she was out of work for a while.
Meanwhile, she says lines and wait times at the West Texas Food Bank outreach have gotten longer since the spring.
The Food Bank relies on a cadre of local volunteers who show up every month. It’s a lot of work — the cars roll by in a steady stream, each requiring several boxes and sacks of food.
The volunteers put in long hours loading each car by hand, even as midday temperatures routinely hit the triple digits during the summer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Presidio and West Texas hard. But many residents of the border town said the community faced challenges that predate the pandemic — such as a tepid job market and minimal healthcare resources. Some expressed frustration and a feeling that their town often gets overlooked.