The vegetable market outside Churches Touching Lives for Christ was open Tuesday afternoon and business was brisk.
The clients, who show up on Tuesdays for the food pantry, receive their groceries inside the building and then make their way to the back, where the vegetables and fruits are located.
As they leave the building, pantry clients may pick up paper towels, toilet paper, dog food and sodas.
Once outside, the pantry patrons can select whatever they want from the assortment of fruits and vegetables, including onions, chayotes, cherries, potatoes — regular and sweet — and kiwis. Pantry clients can receive groceries from CTLC once a month.
Chris Ballard, CTLC director, was trying to convince people to take some packages of celery.
“It’s nature’s toothbrush,” she said.
The market will be repeated Saturday when CTLC has its second food distribution day of the week. The food pantry is at 702 W. Ave. G in Temple.
The produce comes from the Central Texas Food Bank out of Austin and loaded into the refrigerated trailer in the parking lot, which serves as a hub for other area food banks.
There are some people in the community who will come by and pick up produce. On Tuesday, one lady drove by, having had some of the vegetables loaded into her truck.
“She takes the vegetables to her neighbors,” Ballard said.
Ballard said she doesn’t like the fresh produce to wind up in the trash, so when the vegetables begin to brown around the edges, the food will be left at the back of the building for those who roam the area at night.
In 2019, Churches Touching Lives for Christ distributed 3,857,890 pounds of food to thousands of families and individuals. In 2018, 2,855,160 pounds of food was distributed by CTLC.
Each week, 770 children in 12 schools in six Bell County school districts, and in Teague, receive a bag full of food to take home for the weekend through the weekend nutrition program.
Martha Tyroch manages the program and has recruited all of the volunteers who put the bags together.
“It’s an eclectic group back there doing that work,” Ballard said.
It was discovered that some of the students were sharing their weekend food with friends. Now the bags are given to the bus drivers who distribute the bags as the students depart the bus.
“At least we now know the food is likely making it to the child’s home,” said Retha Snelson, board member and treasurer at CTLC.
Jim Hornsby, director of CTLC for years, died in July and the food pantry continued on serving people in need without missing a beat, Snelson said.
CTLC volunteers just continued doing what needed to be done, she said.
Ballard said she’s the type of person who likes order, but that’s not how food and clothing ministries work.
“It’s something new every day,” she said. “You learn to be flexible.”
There are truckers who will call as they are passing through, if they have a couple of pallets, more or less, of chicken parts or bottled water, or just about anything that wasn’t accepted for whatever reason by the distribution center scheduled to receive the items.
The origin of a pallet of hot dogs may not match the order form of a food distribution center and be rejected. The trucker doesn’t want to carry those hot dogs back to the source and the manufacturer likely doesn’t want to pay for the return trip.
“There’s a network out there of truckers and businesses that know who to contact when there’s some extra food that can be distributed to area food pantries,” Snelson said.
When the pantry was low on money, businesses and groups in the community came through with funding.
One lesson Ballard said she has absorbed is that CTLC is located in an old building and there’s always something breaking or leaking or just malfunctioning.
“I’m sure this is not new, Jim probably just took care of those issues on his own without burdening anybody else,” she said.
The equipment that moves pallets on and off the trucks needs to be replaced and a couple of volunteers to drive them would be helpful.
“I just can’t do it,” Ballard said.
However, Snelson can, when given enough space to maneuver, though she’d be willing to pass along that chore to someone else.
CTLC was able to get Feed My Sheep designated as a pantry partner, so it can benefit from the Central Texas Food Bank food donations.
Surprisingly, when there is a need, such as turkeys during the holiday or a deep freeze, someone usually walks in the door or telephones with just what is required.
“We’re blessed and we’re doing good work,” Ballard said.