Austin food trucks, nonprofits serve residents recovering from Texas freeze

Cathy Brown said she wasn’t sure what the food truck was serving outside the Garfield Community Library in east Travis County, but a hot meal was welcomed for her family of three and two older parents.

Olaya, a Peruvian food truck, parked in front of the library for a few hours on Monday afternoon and distributed free hot meals and Monster Energy drinks to community members in need.

The mobile restaurant was one of dozens of food trucks across town distributing free groceries to residents and families after the storm freeze in Texas in recent days, where many had no electricity or water.

More:Four Austin councilors are calling for answers to the threat of food shortages

Without electricity, many households would not be able to keep perishable foods in fridges or keep frozen items on ice, forcing residents to throw away dairy and meat products worth high food bills. And with many stores in the area struggling to stock their shelves, these powerless and waterless households had limited options to stock up their refrigerators.

The nonprofit Del Valle Community Coalition, which launched some Austin area food truck favorites such as Olaya, Wholly Cow, and Easy Tiger, worked to supply the thousands of residents in the area.

Brown, who said her home was one of the lucky ones who hadn’t lost electricity, had been without water. And with grocery stores still waiting for new grocery deliveries, Olaya was a better alternative.

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Nicholas Morciglio, barista at Crema Bakery & Cafe on Brodie Lane, hands Rosina Esquivel a bag of groceries at a giveaway event in the restaurant on Monday.  The café owners Janessa and Jessica Tomberlin bought groceries in a restaurant specialty shop and gave them to those in need.  Esquivel said she lost all of the food in her refrigerator during an extended power outage caused by the winter storm.  The next giveaway is Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Her friend Kerri Johnson accompanied her and took four plates home to feed herself, her husband and two friends who could not drive to the site.

“There are so many people out here with limited access to transportation. That’s why we’re all trying to come together to provide people with food, food and water,” Brown said.

As a line began to form, the sun was blazing, depressing temperatures until the mid-1970s. Some pulled out spherical caps and umbrellas to block out the sun, but they also stuck to the coronavirus pandemic, wearing masks and staying socially aloof. Just before 2:30 p.m., the food truck served its last meals of the day.

Across the county, many food trucks said they ran out of food just hours after opening. At St. Elmo Elementary School in South Austin, the local burger joint Wholly Cow installed a food truck that serves more than 700 meals in an hour and a half.

Other free food and water points were available to residents throughout the region.

At least 15 water distribution points were opened to Travis County residents until supplies ran out on Monday, leaving one in Nelson Field, northeast Austin, looking like a game was being played.

More:“Frozen, dead and rotten”: farmers in central Texas get a first glimpse into the aftermath of the storm

In the afternoon demand had slowed to a minimum there and in Garrison Park and on the Austin Community College Highland campus. However, after a few tough days, the recipients remained grateful for the support.

Erica Rios of Manor said she had running water again, but it was not yet potable.

It filled up with bottled water before the storm started, but it had run out of supplies in the past few days.

“We probably have another case and I don’t know how long this will take,” said Rios.

A drive-through distribution for food and water also took place at St. Elmo Elementary, which included bags of locally grown produce, locally grown beef and sausage, boxes of water, baby items and personal care products.

Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin teachers’ union, said his group was ready to hand out hundreds of bags to residents by Monday evening when a line of cars formed from both directions on St. Elmo Road and heading South First Street US 290 drove down.

“It’s heartbreaking to see so many people in need, especially after last week,” said Zarifis, “but we are delighted that so many people are taking this opportunity and working together to help our community.”

USA Today Network authors Austin Huguelet and Katie Kull contributed to this report.

Hundreds of bags filled with locally grown produce and meat will be laid out on tables during a food, water and baby supplies distribution hosted Monday by the Austin Latino Coalition at St. Elmo Elementary School in South Austin.

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