Mutual aid organizations, food banks, and other community-based organizations are providing food and water to Texas residents impacted by blackouts and below-freezing temperatures.
A devastating winter storm struck Texas, prompting the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s power grid, to institute rolling blackouts and avoid a total collapse of the system. All 254 Texas counties faced winter storm warnings and cities across the state saw the coldest night on record in decades.
Millions of residents went without heat or electricity for days, and even while ERCOT reports that service is being restored for many households, power outages in parts of the state remain.
The crisis is also leading to shortages of clean water and fresh food, as grocery stores face empty shelves, and cities warn residents to boil water before use.
And in jails, many of which lack running water, Krishnaveni Gandu, Executive Director of the Texas Jail Project, explains that the situation is dire. There are “very few hot meals, which are never hot. Portions have been cut in half,” she tells Food Tank.
In response to this crisis, food banks are working to distribute food as quickly as possible to meet the need for food, which is only expected to increase, according Valerie Hawthorne, Director of Government Relations at the North Texas Food Bank.
Mutual aid groups and other organizations across Texas are also organizing to help their neighbors.
Para Mi Gente, a mutual aid fund in San Antonio, for example, is distributing monetary aid to help residents access emergency relief.
“We hope with the funds, community members are able to access water, food, shelter, and pay for damages or other needs that may arise,” Alexis Lara, an organizer for Para Mi Gente tells Food Tank. They are also working to support other mutual aid organizations that are making food deliveries.
Para Mi Gente estimates that they have provided aid to 165 individuals and families thus far and they are working on distributing the remainder of their funds.
Other mutual aid organizations, including the Dallas-based Feed the People Dallas Mutual Aid and Fort Worth-based Funky Town Fridge, are working to distribute food and other essential goods directly to residents.
Lara explains that the mutual aid model allows the group to help anyone in need, without limitations. “We want to help everyone, no questions asked. Because of this, people feel more comfortable and trust that we will not judge them.”
Other organizations like the Texas Jail Project are focused on helping people confined in county jails. Gandu says that the organization is depositing commissary funds so that those in jails can purchase additional food. They also recently donated 10 cases of bottled water to a rural county jail and are in the process of reaching out to others who can use similar donations.
To help sustain this work, Lara recommends providing financial support to organizations accepting donations, including the Austin Area Urban League, and raising awareness of mutual aid efforts through social media.
“We are so proud of our community for answering a call to action to help those in need,” Lara tells Food Tank. “We also received so much support from people all over the country and for that we are so grateful.”