Food pantry seek help with rising water bill

SAN BENITO — The San Benito Food Pantry is feeling harder-pressed to pay its water bill as more families ask for food as the cororavirus leads more businesses and schools to close, an official said Monday.

Later today, Executive Director Forest Walker plans to ask city commissioners for help in paying the monthly water bill that’s jumped from about $64 to about $150.

Every month, the Valley’s oldest food pantry buys about $1,000 from the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, she said.

Now, Walker plans to pay higher food bills to help feed more families.

“I think this virus is going to affect the pantry and other pantries,” she said.

Food Bank braces for demand

At the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, Executive Director Stuart Haniff said he’s bracing for layoffs and more children out of schools.

“We do see an increase,” Haniff said, referring to the demand for food. “We’re the first responders for food. We’re the largest charity provider of food, water and supplies in the Valley. I think that need will grow exponentially.”

Pantry to ask for help

In San Benito, one of the Valley’s highest water bills threatens to cut into the food pantry’s services.

After the pantry moved into its new site at 2007 E. Expressway 83 in November 2018, city officials were billing it about $64 a month for water, Walker said.

Then a year later, she said, the monthly bill jumped to about $150 after officials added sewer service.

After disputing the city’s charges for about six month, now the bill’s swelled to about $600, she said.

“I’m a little shocked that we can’t get some kind of help considering we’re nonprofit, we’re there for the community of San Benito and we’ve been here for 35 years,” Walker said.

The pantry, which relies on about $500 a month in donations during the summertime and about $1,200 to $1,500 a month during winter, pays the Food Bank about $1,000 a month for its food, she said.

“Times are hard,” Walker said. “We’re not broke, but when you have everything going out and little coming in, sooner of later you’re go broke.”

Demand expected to climb

Every month, the pantry feeds more than 5,000 residents, she said.

But every week, more than new 10 families add their names to her list, she said.

“It grows every week,” she said.

When she opens her doors on Wednesday, she’ll be bracing for more residents asking for food as the result of coronavirus’ economic impact.

“I think we’ll be swamped,” she said.

Some residents are calling for food as stores run low on staples, Walker said.

“They’re telling me they can’t find things in the stores,” she said. “They’re asking if we have enough food to go around.”