Farmers to Families: Thousands line up for free boxed chicken

Residents started lining up about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday to receive boxes of fully-cooked, frozen chicken. In all the BISD food services department distributed more than 2,500 of the 14-pound boxes, one per vehicle, starting at 7 a.m.

The boxes came ready to distribute and courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Laura Villarreal, administrator for Food and Nutrition Services at the Brownsville Independent School District.

She said BISD was able to secure two truckloads of the processed, boxed chicken through the USDA’s Farmers to Families program, an effort that allows USDA to purchase farm products and distribute them to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We just had to provide freezer space. … Basically we’re giving away groceries from the government. All you have to do is add a side dish,” she said. BISD stopped serving meals through the school lunch program on July 16, so the Farmers to Families program represented a great opportunity for BISD, she said.

People receiving the boxes generally agreed.

“I think this is awesome how they are helping us. Everybody can use a meal every day,” said Jose Luis Lopez, a Brownsville native whose wife Elvira and 5-year-old daughter Samantha Nicole accompanied him as they waited in line for more than an hour.

Lopez, a yard man, said for him the worldwide pandemic has meant a lack of work and a lack of resources. The shelves in places like Walmart are empty, he said.

“It’s brought us together as a family,” he said. “We’ve found new ways to entertain ourselves.”

He and his wife also said there’s been a lot of death and a lot of sadness.

“This thing has just made history all over the world,” he said, adding that everything happens for a reason and that he’s just grateful “to still be walking around healthy.”

Deanora Benavidez of Brownsville said the pandemic has made her feel uncertain about the future. She said she is unemployed but doing what she can while staying at home with her husband and four children.

Jackie Cruz, assistant FNS director and a registered dietician said the food distribution event had brought together people from all backgrounds.

In the pandemic, food insecurity is affecting people at all levels, she said.

“Making sure families have adequate nutrition is near and dear to my heart,” she said, standing at a table in front of a FNS freezer truck and helping distribute the boxes of food.