Houston Used The Funds From Its Cancelled Thanksgiving Parade To Feed Hungry Families

2020 has been the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone has been affected by the pandemic one way or another, and it is definitely taking its toll on the way we live our daily lives.

We have all had to sacrifice gatherings and other social events in order to stay at home and, hopefully, flatten the curve.

Because the COVID cases are steadily rising, the city of Houston in Texas made the choice to cancel the annual Thanksgiving parade. But instead of leaving the funds alone, the city is deciding to put them to good use. Companies such as H-E-B, Reliant, Cigna, and the Houston Food Bank were among the sponsors for the parade, but instead, they chose to use their money to help those families who need food.

On the 21st of November, they held a food drive at the NRG Park where families in need were invited to collect a free box of Thanksgiving essentials. These boxes had items such as turkey, ham, stuffing, rolls, potatoes, carrots, onions, gravy, rice, and dessert. The event that was held was a socially distant drive-through one, and volunteers loaded the groceries into the cars for the people. All the volunteers wore masks, and there was plenty of hand sanitizer to go around. City officials even passed out thermometers.

The event proved to be very popular and there was a line that snaked itself all the way around the block. People even lined up incredibly early, with people even beginning to gather as early as 1:00A.M. According to KHOU, the H-E-B Director of Public Affairs, Lisa Helfman, called the event “quite humbling” as it pointed out just how difficult times are for people – particularly when factoring in a global pandemic.

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As Helfman elaborated according to the outlet, it has complicated things even further and taken the struggle to a “different level than anything we’ve ever seen before.” This is, in part, due to the fact that many struggling families have not received any further government assistance bar the initial $1,200 stimulus check. Since then, everyone has been on their own, and it’s been up to local charities and people with good hearts to pick up the slack. KHOU reports that Brian Greene, the president of the Houston Food Bank, pointed out that this year has seen “hundreds of thousands” of families struggling. And while Greene is happy to help, he’s also looking forward to the time when people won’t be in need of help.

As for the food drive this past weekend, it definitely highlighted the major food disparity that has gripped the city of Houston in the wake of the pandemic. Greene said to KHOU-11, “Most of the distributions we put in the trunk, I can tell you the trunks we’re putting food in belong to cars that are all over the map. People who you can tell were doing fine and then suddenly they weren’t.”

And he added that the long food lines aren’t just due to the holiday season, they’re a direct result of the major problems caused by the pandemic. He further shared that it’s not a short-term problem, but a long-term one.

Throughout the day of the food drive, volunteers estimated that they’d issued 5,000 meals to needy families. There is no denying that times are very difficult, and as ABC 13 has reported, the state of Texas has been particularly hit badly by COVID cases. In fact, Houston alone has seen 90,239 cases and 1,398 deaths. As a result, the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, has pleaded with the city’s residents to hold off on hosting social gatherings for the holidays this year, outside of people who are part of an immediate household. As Turner said, “Don’t invite COVID to Thanksgiving dinner.”

Still, there are many experts who are expecting to see the number of cases rise in the following weeks after Thanksgiving because not everyone will want to comply with stay at home orders. But hopefully people will see the logic in staying at home and keeping others safe.

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