A Texoma food program is expanding its services amid growing need during the ongoing Coronavirus crisis. MasterKey Ministries, in partnership with the North Texas Food Bank, expanded its weekly fresh produce distribution this week into a full-scale disaster relief service.

In doing so, MasterKey expanded its services not only to low-income families and the elderly in Texoma, but to others across North Texas affected by the ongoing epidemic.

“MasterKey has a Friday pantry where we give out fresh produce and boxes for seniors, but we are now under a disaster relief time and so North Texas Food Bank is partnering with us to meet the need for our neighbors,”MasterKey Executive Julie Rickey said.

Early Friday morning, cars lined up outside of Harvest Time Assembly of God for this week’s distribution. Volunteers, wearing rubber gloves and cloth surgical masks, helped guide the traffic toward where the food was being given out.

In some cases, people would ask for assistance in filling out the paperwork, but volunteers said people were unable to leave the vehicles out of social distancing precautions. In other cases, volunteers were unable to put boxes inside of vehicles and put them on top, for the recipient to handle.

While in normal weeks, MasterKey may provide fresh produce for more than 250 households, the service saw a spike in demand last week, and served more than double its weekly average with food for 580 households.

“What we noticed last week was that the degree of fear and uncertainty was real,“ Rickey said.

As of writing, only two cases of the virus have been confirmed in Grayson County. Despite this, the county has declared a state of emergency, and Denison is urging residents to self-isolate and stay home.

“When we got those cases in Grayson County, it got real,” said Crystal Brooks, representing MasterKey Ministries. “Now that Denison is going to go lock up at midnight, it will get even realer. It will make people wonder if they go to the grocery store, where they are going to get food.”

Earlier this week, North Texas Food Bank announced that it would be expanding the program into disaster relief. Instead of fresh vegetables, volunteers gave out boxes of shelf-stable foods, including rice, beans and canned goods.

With the expansion of the program’s scope, the ministry was able to assist a larger group of people. Rather than focusing exclusively on low-income homes, the non-profit helped anyone who needed food assistance.

Brooks said there are many people who are now in need of food. In some cases, it represents those who are out of work during the crisis. In others, it represents people who are simply unable to find food right now, including those who are unable to visit the grocery store.

“It doesn’t matter if you have money or not,” Brooks said. “If you don’have access to food, you are food insecure.”

In some cases, this is the first time that many have worried where they may get their next meal.

“Because of what we are going through and that disaster a lot of people are learning what that feels like,” Brooks said, describing food insecurity. “I am hoping there is more compassion, empathy that comes from this.”

Among those who went to Friday’s distribution was Jennifer Houston, who was picking up food for family at home.

“I am actually taking this to my mother,” Houston said. “She is in her mid-60s and can’t get out of the house and is compromised already, so this really, really helps. I can’t afford to do it myself.”

Looking forward, representatives for the ministry said they are in okay position with regard to stocked food. However, donations will become important if the crisis continues.

MasterKey Ministries will have a second food distribution from 9 a..m. until 1 p.m. Saturday outside of its offices at 209 S. FM 1417.

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.

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