FORT HOOD, Texas — The rising cost of groceries, peak permanent change of station season and overall inflation are just some of the reasons why the food pantry here is seeking the community’s help and support to restock its shelves.
“The food pantry, at this time, is very low on a lot of critical items,” Teresa Parris, administrative support specialist with the Fort Hood Garrison Chaplains Office, said. “Proteins, food for children, just simple things like baking goods and condiments … things you don’t think about until you don’t have them. Why we need help is every month, we’re having more and more families coming in (for assistance).”
The Fort Hood Food Pantry, located in two rooms within the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel, saw the number of families it services monthly nearly double in July, from 24 in June to 44 last month, Parris said.
“We go through peanut butter and jelly here fast,” Parris, who has been with the Chaplains Office for more than a decade and working with the food pantry since her office took it over in July of 2017, said. “Our cereal, we’re pretty well stocked, but it’s all the same thing. We don’t have a lot of variety.”
The food pantry offers emergency subsistence, meaning that they can provide three days worth of non-perishable food to those in need.
The food pantry is open to active duty military members, military retirees, veterans and National Guard and Reserve service members serving on active duty. Guard and Reserve troops not on active duty can use the food pantry with a chaplain’s referral. Parris said active duty troops can also receive Commissary gift cards, if their unit chaplain brings them into the food pantry.
“The Commissary cards are limited to $10 per family member,” Parris noted, though she said that amount could be raised based on the recommendation of the unit chaplain. The gift cards, she said, help pay for essential perishable items like milk, bread, meat, fresh fruit and eggs.
Pfc. Jada McCoy arrived at Fort Hood in October 2021. As a new religious affairs specialist she went to work within the Garrison Chaplains Office. She started working in the food pantry even before she could log onto a computer in the office.
“Seeing people be able to come here, to help themselves and help their families, for them to rely on us … it has been very good,” she said. “It actually helps them a lot and to see the smile on their face and having them give us feedback saying that we helped them … it’s very nice to hear.”
Since the summer of 2017, Parris has seen the food pantry grow from a single room to twice that now. While need has also grown, so has support from many organizations on the installation. She mentioned the commissaries on post as a prime example.
“The (Fort Hood) commissaries have a ‘buy-a-bag’ program. It started out as a holiday bag and now they are doing it year-round for us, because we need help year-round,” Parris said. “When people buy those bags, it comes right here. It doesn’t go anywhere else.
“Both commissaries are doing it,” she added. “Right now, Clear Creek is doing food and Warrior Way is doing toiletries and paper products. If you can’t afford a can of soup, you sure can’t afford a pack of toilet paper.”
For those using the food pantry service, maintaining the confidentiality and dignity of its patrons is a must, according to Chaplain (Capt.) Eugene Savarimuthu, a Catholic chaplain serving as the community pastor since his arrival at Fort Hood in early June.
“When they come to the food pantry, sometimes we may not understand what, actually, they are going through in their personal life. When it comes to sustenance, the priority is a roof over the head, food on the table and clothing. These are three priorities that every human being needs,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to do the best we can, and keeping up … the dignity and confidentiality, and also feel (like) we walk with them in their shoes.”
Anyone needing assistance, wishing to volunteer their time in support of the food pantry or desiring to deliver non-perishable food items, call the Garrison Chaplains Office at (254) 288-6545.