A free food distribution Friday in Longview saw boxes left at the end delivered to local pantries to continue meeting a hunger need in the community.

The East Texas Food Bank held the produce distribution Friday morning at the Longview Fairgrounds. The volunteer-led program provided food to 837 families during the drive-thru distribution.

East Texas Food Bank began offering emergency drive-thru food distribution in April in Longview after recognizing an increased need for food assistance in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Lauren Barnes, director of communications and marketing for the food bank.

The food bank offered distributions twice a month at fairgrounds, serving between 800 and 1,200 families each time, Barnes said. Starting this month, the food bank is reducing its distributions to once a month at the fairgrounds.

“We have continued to hold distributions in coordination with the City of Longview as long as the demand has been there and the space and resources have been available,” Barnes said.

Friday’s event marked the first time a Longview distribution has had excess food; however, Barnes said the food need remains greater than before the pandemic began in the spring. In Gregg County, 25,850 people are facing hunger every day, Barnes said.

“That equates to one in five people who live in Gregg County, including one in three children,” she said.

The extra food was divided up and sent to food bank partners, such as Longview Community Ministries, Hiway 80 Rescue Mission and Newgate Mission.

“Our response to the pandemic is ever-changing depending on the needs, resources and how we can safely serve the community,” Barnes said. “Right now, we are scheduled in Longview once a month, but that is subject to change.”

Future distributions are planned from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 12, March 12 and April 9 at the fairgrounds. Vehicles will need to enter from 300 W. Cotton St. and follow the route and traffic control directions.

Families seeking food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic can visit easttexasfoodbank.org and click “find food” to get information on the nearest resources.

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Michael Cavazos is a multimedia journalist specializing in photography. A Kilgore native, he studied photography at Kilgore College and Stephen F. Austin State University. Michael enjoys visually documenting life in East Texas.