Food insecurity continues to be a big issue during the pandemic. More than 23 million households sometimes or often didn't have enough to eat during part of January, according to the latest numbers from a U.S. Census Bureau survey.
Compare that to before the pandemic. Nearly 14 million households experienced food insecurity at some point in 2019, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A faith-based nonprofit in Texas has come up with a unique way to help that has taken off in part because of the pandemic, and the idea is now getting interest from around the world.
First Refuge Ministries started a grocery store inside Linda Tutt High School in Sanger, Texas to put a twist on a typical food pantry.
Students staff the store that offers everything from produce and dairy, to packaged and canned food.
It's giving the students entrepreneurial and other job skills. At the same time, it's providing them and others in the community the food they need with dignity.
“One of the things I did not realize is the pride issue that these kids would take. Right now, the kids are taking a whole lot of pride in working in the grocery store and doing that,” said Paul Juarez, Executive Director of First Refuge Ministries.
“They're just so happy that they're able to make sure that nobody goes to bed hungry, that they're able to have the food and be able to order the food and just keeping it running like it is a grocery store,” said Breana Minick, Grant Writer at First Refuge Ministries.
Right now, people in the town can't shop for themselves because of COVID-19, so the students are doing that for them. Everyone is assigned points for food based on their family size. Students can get extra points for good deeds they do at school.
The grocery store had its official grand opening last week, but it's been running since November.
First Refuge Ministries has been hearing from people from across the U.S. and also Australia, the U.K. and Canada about replicating this program. They're sharing the specifics of what it takes with anyone who contacts them.