HOUSTON – When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the Houston area last year, food shortages in those neighborhoods where access was already limited to fresh and healthy food became even worse.
As the pandemic began to upend and the local restaurant industry’s sense of normalcy, Lucille’s chef Chris Williams decided to step up and make sure people weren’t going hungry.
He started with front-line workers before transitioning and beginning his mission to feed our city’s senior citizens living in underserved at-risk communities. More than 215, 000 meals have been served so far through his non-profit Lucille’s 1913.
“For me to sum it up, it’s been gratitude. It’s been about community,” Williams said.
To ensure his mission of combating food insecurity in Houston stays on track, Williams held a charity golf tournament at Hermann Park Golf Course as a way to raise money for future food drops and for the Imani School, founded by his mother Patricia.
“The Imani School is essentially an HBCU for children. Attendance is down to 30% because of the pandemic,” Williams said. “We have been blessed by the community to be able to outreach and to serve so many more persons who are in need,” said Patricia Hogan-Williams, head of the Imani School.
Celebrity players included former Houston Texan Owen Daniels, Steve Francis, and Moochie Norris, both former Houston Rockets, and others.
“I think people found out what we were doing and they really wanted to get behind it, and that’s why we are in the position that we’re in now,” Williams said.
Now, more than a year into the pandemic, Williams said there is still so much more ground to cover.
A study last year by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research found an estimated 724,750 people who are food insecure live in the Greater Houston area.
With a food insecurity rate of 16.6%, that’s four percentage points above the national average, and more than 500,000 Houston residents live in the USDA’s designated food deserts. Experts say it usually affects areas with more poverty.
“I’m just grateful that we are able to be in a position to be a conduit for people’s goodwill in this city. They knew they could invest their dollars with us and see an immediate return that goes right back into the community,” Williams said.