PlainsCapital Bank Helps South Plains Food Bank Reach Thousands
“93 cents of every dollar goes directly into our programs. We are debt free and we can only do that with partners like PlainsCapital Bank. They are a part of our mission in fighting hunger.” – Dina Jeffries, South Plains Food Bank CEO
CEO Dina Jeffries, Director of Development Vanessa Morelion, and their team at the South Plains Food Bank (SPFB) know all too well that disruptions to school calendars, employment, or personal health can force some of their neighbors into food insecurity overnight. Their mission involves providing hope to local families who need help putting food on the table for a short or extended period. While fighting hunger is the SPFB’s primary goal, they also work to enrich lives through their educational youth growth program with classes ranging from nutritional management and cooking, to financial literacy and mastering a job search.
PlainsCapital Bank’s involvement with the SPFB started at the 501(c)(3)’s inception, when the Bank supplied a loan for an apple orchard to help feed families for years. Over the last three decades, PlainsCapital has continued to support the SPFB through volunteerism, sponsorships, and as a banking partner.
“The South Plains Food Bank’s relationship with PlainsCapital Bank is more than a financial partnership,” said Vanessa. “It has always been a relief to be able to call PlainsCapital with a request for assistance, knowing that if they’re not able to provide what we need at that moment, they’ll find a resource that can help fill our needs.”
When COVID-19 struck, already struggling individuals in the Lubbock area were at a higher risk of facing food insecurity. Beginning in March 2020, the SPFB saw a 70 percent increase in families needing help as people dealt with layoffs, while schools—where some children rely on school lunch programs for meals—transitioned to virtual teaching.
At local grocery stores, uncertainty associated with the pandemic caused consumers to stock up on food. The inventory shortages at those establishments resulted in a decline in food donations and disrupted the SPFB’s supply chain.
Social distancing guidelines also forced the SPFB to significantly reduce the number of volunteers who could contribute to in-person operations, placing a greater strain on their paid staff. The SPFB’s team knew their work was becoming increasingly important as COVID-19 elevated the pressures on local families and their own workforce.
“Finding a solution to hunger is instinctual for anyone who doesn’t have consistent access to nourishment,” said Vanessa. “COVID-19 has really elevated the challenges many families were already navigating. We needed to help the food insecure avoid facing extremely difficult decisions, such as choosing between feeding their family and paying for necessary medicine or rent. Additionally, children have trouble focusing on school when their stomachs are empty, so we want to keep them on track with the meals they need.”
Knowing that Dina and Vanessa’s staff were critical to the SPFB’s mission during COVID-19, PlainsCapital Bank Executive Vice President Perry Tipton and West Texas Regional Chairman Barry Ballinger reached out to see if a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) could help. They coordinated the complexities of the application process and in April 2020, the SPFB was approved for a PPP loan.
The PPP program funds helped the SPFB cope with the shortage of volunteers by keeping the staff on payroll and covering the team’s overtime hours. The SPFB also was able to hire 20 additional temporary positions to increase their manpower.
With more paid staff, the SPFB was able to shift their application and food donation processes online. Having digital methods for individuals to request assistance made it possible to turn around approvals more quickly, placing food in people’s hands within 48 hours of application. Online donation opportunities also meant that people outside of Lubbock could contribute and allowed the SPFB to stretch donated dollars as far as possible.
While the SPFB recorded fewer in-person volunteers in the last year, their staff and new digital application and donation methods helped them serve more than 10,000 new families.
“The assistance we received from the PPP loan wasn’t just appreciated by the SPFB. It made a difference to the thousands we were able to feed across the South Plains and the people who were able to participate,” said Vanessa. “Introducing new methods to get applications processed and receive donations allowed the community to be a greater part of the solutions that SPFB was providing. It’s inspiring that our partners at PlainsCapital Bank and in Lubbock could just be sitting around worrying about the impacts of the pandemic, but they’re finding ways to share our mission as advocates or supporters.”