For over 60 years, Irving Cares has been providing families in need with help they cannot receive anywhere else, from career services to groceries for the week. However, their food pantry is in need of a few very important items.
Irving Cares first started in 1957, after a tornado tore through Dallas and left many without food.
“People didn’t know where to turn to give help or to get help,” Irving Cares’ CEO Teddie Story said. “They wanted to create a central information center, and they wanted to eliminate hunger. Those two programs are the cornerstone of what was founded back then, and those are still two things we do today one family at a time.”
Today, in addition to providing food and information, Irving Cares also provides families in need with financial assistance for rent and bills, as well as helping them find gainful employment; but the food pantry still remains one of the major services the organization provides.
The food pantry provides over 800 Irving families with emergency groceries every month. In addition to donations from the community, the pantry also partners with local retailers like Kroger, Tom Thumb and Target to procure not only canned goods, but fresh meats and dairy as well.
“When I first started volunteering here, we had canned everything,” Story said. “We had no fresh milk, no fresh meat, no fresh eggs, and we didn’t have any meat in the food orders. But [things have improved] because of the great partnerships we have with our retail partners, and also because the community itself has better supported the food pantry than ever before.”
Despite the retail and community donations, there are still a few areas where the pantry is lacking – in fact, they’re in short supply of a major food group: fruits.
Kyle Taylor is the Community Director for Irving Cares, and also runs the food pantry.
“Fresh fruit is really hard to get, and even canned fruit is difficult to get,” Taylor said. “A lot of people are good with the macaroni and cheese, green beans, and corn, which is all great. A lot of times, people don’t associate fruit with food pantries. Number one, because it’s expensive. But fruit is a nutritional element that we need inside our food pantries to meet the nutritional needs [of the customers.]”
Teddie Story agreed fruits, particularly fresh fruits, are one of the top needs for the food pantry. She added that most people do not bother to donate fresh fruits because they believe the pantry cannot store them properly.
“I think people believe we just don’t have the capacity to handle it,” Story said. “We have tremendous refrigeration and freezer space, and we could handle fresh produce if we had it. Now, we can’t have palettes of it, but we can handle a pretty large volume.”
Another often-overlooked need of the food pantry is hygiene items, such as toilet paper, toothbrushes and travel-sized toiletries like shampoo and mouthwash. While the pantry does primarily focus of food, Kyle Taylor said that oftentimes if a family is unable to buy groceries, they cannot buy toiletries either, and Irving Cares makes good use of these hygienic donations.
”We use [travel size toiletries] in two different ways,” Taylor said. “We use those for our families that come to us and may request them and ask for them. Also, during our employment services seminar, we hand those out, because we talk about hygiene during interviews. Those hygiene products might give somebody a leg up over somebody else to get that living wage job that we’re trying to get them to.”
In spite of these shortages, Taylor said community donations are on the increase.
“The biggest thing that would help us is this: just take us into your world,” Taylor said. “If you’ve been to Irving Cares, you know about and are familiar with Irving Cares, just take us into your world. Talk about Irving Cares. If you’ve got kids in school, PTA, sports teams, band, choir, arts program or whatever, just take us into your world.”
Teddie Story also said that if people do not want to donate food, cash is always welcome.
“If you donate cash to Irving Cares, we can procure products at a lesser costs than retail,” Story said. “Our partnership with the North Texas Food Bank allows us to get food for as little as five cents a pound. That means 20 pounds for a dollar versus when you go to grocery and find just one can for a dollar. That’s a pretty good deal.”
Irving Cares is located at 440 South Nursery Road inside the Human Services Building. Donations are accepted Monday through Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.