On days Second Mile Mission Center is open, a line of hundreds of cars waiting to pick up food weaves along back streets near the facility located on Hwy. 90A in Missouri City, Director of Advancement Sheena Abraham said.
“It is a sight to see,” Abraham said. “[The line] gets really long. We have had to get four police officers to help manage the traffic lines just to keep the traffic organized. ... We have a lot of signs up telling people where to go in the line to make sure everything runs smoothly because people are going through tough times, and we want to make it as clear and easy as possible for them to come get the food they need.”
Since the coronavirus outbreak started, Abraham said the faith-based nonprofit organization and food pantry in Missouri City has seen an increased demand for food.
“Even before the coronavirus crisis, people would come to us on a daily basis because they're working and their wages weren't enough to cover their needs, or they're not working; they're looking for a job,” Abraham said. “We know that's amplified now because of all of the industries that have slowed down, and we're seeing it affect all ranges of income.”
Before the pandemic began, Abraham said the food pantry served approximately 60 families a day and may serve 200 families at produce fairs on Saturdays. Now, any day the organization is open, Abraham said the pantry is serving 500-700 families.
“We're doing a high volume of services, just because of the number of families that are coming,” Abraham said. “So that means we're going through a lot of food.”
Abraham said to serve the community the best it can during this time, Second Mile reduced the number of days it is open for food service each week.
“We know this is a marathon and not a sprint,” Abraham said. “So, we've been serving about three days a week. It really depends on the food supply. If we don't have a steady supply of food, we can't serve in this way.”
Second Mile receives a lot of its food supplies through a partnership with the Houston Food Bank. However, Abraham said because the Houston Food Bank is also experiencing higher demand, the supply from there has been reduced.
Because of this, Abraham said Second Mile is calling on community members to host food drives within their neighborhoods.
“So far people are responding, and we are overjoyed,” Abraham said. “We have people coming into our doors who have gone through their neighborhoods, gotten the word out on social media, and they're putting on gloves and masks and going door to door and picking up items that are left out.”
Abraham said donated food items are going straight to Second Mile’s shelves and out into the community.
In addition to an increased need for donations, Abraham said the nonprofit is also in need of volunteers.
“Feeding this many families, it's really a lot of physical labor,” Abraham said. “It's a lot of getting food in the door, putting it in the right place, getting it into bags and getting it out in the community. So it does take a lot of hands.”
Abraham said volunteers are following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks and gloves while serving the community. Additionally, Second Mile’s food pantry is operating as a drive-thru in order to limit person-to-person interaction.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Second Mile is continuing to look for ways to fulfill its mission, Abraham said.
“We want to love our neighbors; we want to meet their physical needs; we want to equip them,” Abraham said. “We're going to see where the need is and how we can best help. That's not gonna stop.”
Second Mile posts which days it is open for food service on its website. The nonprofit said it will be closed April 10 and April 11 for the Easter holiday.