Omar Jimenez and Bill Kirkos, CNN
The storms left millions across Texas and the Mississippi Valley without power, water and access to food for days, beleaguered by freezing temperatures that began last Monday and stretched into the weekend.
“It was devastating. That’s really the only word to describe it,” Jessica Tomberlin said.
Jessica and her wife Janessa run Crema Bakery and they lost their own inventory after the power went out for for three days.
“When the storm hit last week, it was just chaos and madness for everybody. Grocery stores have been out of all of the staples. Lines are really long, and we’ve got a lot of families and a lot of elderly in our community who just needed a way to be able to get food,” Jessica said.
As food supplies and water resources slowly become available, the Tomberlins have spent at least $5,000 out of their own pockets to purchase groceries, including fresh produce, eggs, chicken breasts and hot soup. They hope to feed up to a thousand people through the rest of the week, relying also on crowd-funding efforts to get meals to hungry residents.
The Tomberlins told CNN that approximately 400 people picked up food at the South Austin business in the last two days, including Edith Rios, an elementary school teacher who is helping some of her low-income students and families with deliveries.
“Having these conversations today has been very difficult, hearing what some of our students have to go through,” Rios told CNN. “And if we can run over here and grab a mom that needs milk, a gallon of milk, that’s great, you know?
“Right now, I have families that don’t have basic things…or are going to struggle to pay rent, or are going to struggle to pay bills or are struggling to put food on the table,” Rios said. “I had one mom who said, ‘Hey I really need milk,’ and I didn’t even tell her (I was coming) because what if they don’t even have milk by the time I get there?”
After getting the milk at Crema Bakery, Rios said she was heading straight to her student’s home to drop off the bags of food.
When asked about how Texas handled the storms, Jessica criticized the lack of preparation from state leadership and noted the difficult conditions many already faced with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The people who were at a middle or lower income were already at such a disadvantage because of Covid. And then you compound this storm and literally everything’s shutting down for a week. A lot of people won’t be able to recover and it’s just really sad,” she said.
“Being in the position that we are, we feel a responsibility to our community,” Jessica said. “Our job is to feed people, so we were less worried about getting things going for ourselves and more about getting the shop back open, and being able to mobilize our community and feed the people who need it the most.”
CNN’s Konstantin Toropin and Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.