Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

3 Ways the Oil Boom Has Increased Hunger in Texas

The Permian Basin oil boom has brought jobs and wealth to West Texas, but it’s also brought something less expected: hunger. During a recent trip to Odessa, StateImpact Texas’s Mose Buchele sat down with Libby Campbell, director of the West Texas Food Bank, to learn how, as she puts it, “not all tides raise all ships.”

1) Increased Property Values. With people moving to the Permian Basin from all over the country, property values have skyrocketed. You often hear stories of rents doubling when the time comes for a tenant to re-sign a lease. That’s put a strain on budgets and led to more hunger in the region.

“Maybe their rent was six or eight hundred dollars three or four years ago, it’s currently twelve or fifteen hundred dollars,” says Campbell. “You’ve kind of already busted your budget before you even get to the point that you’re purchasing food.”

2) Not Everyone Can Work in the Oilfields. The increased cost of living has been disastrous for those who can’t secure high paying oilfield jobs. Campbell says elderly retirees and single parents are especially hard hit.

“If you’re 92 years old you cant go out and lay pipe,” says Campbell. “If you’re a single dad you can’t go out and work seven days on and seven days off in the oilfields.”

3) People Are Showing up Broke. Campbell says a lot of people come to the food bank from out of town “who say ‘we’re here (…) we got a job, but now we’re living in an apartment, or living in a hotel, or we’re living out of our car. And we haven’t received our first paycheck yet, and we need an emergency box to get us through.’”

Campbell says those newcomers often return to the food bank, not to get more food but “to volunteer or write a check” once they’ve gotten on their feet.

Support for KUT’s StateImpact Texas Roadshow comes from The UT Energy Institute.


  • Papa_Ray

    OK, times are tough even in a boom town. But don’t be mislead or think that most have this problem of being “hungry”. Or actually any.

    Those that are get plenty of help. Those that don’t have a job in the Oil Field can find other work. If they can’t work, they get assistance.
    Children in the Midland,Odessa area, get two meals free if they can’t afford to pay (If they go to school). They can even get a third meal if required.

    All families are treated the same but the majority are minorities. Not saying why or what the circumstances are but that is just the way it is. The free meals also go to those who are not U.S. Citizens. So, don’t get mislead by those who tell you other wise. Texas takes care of almost everyone.

    • Sandy Young

      Unless, of course, you are a woman, or a child or want access to health care, or Head Start, or want to get a copy of a Voter ID in one of the many counties that doesn’t have a DPS Office so you can vote or….or….or……..

      • Texan

        Whether you are a woman or child, there is access to health care. The county and the hospitals will take all comers. Head Start is in each school and as pointed out they get free meals in the schools. If they want to vote the need to have an photo ID which they already have if they are receiving aid. They are taken care of by the state and their communities.

        • Susan Walters

          I don’t even know what to say about Republicans anymore. Taking food out of the mouths of kids and veterans.

          Yes, they even accuse our war veterans of being takers now.

          • wmadair

            There is nothing in this story about republicans. Nobody is taking food from anyone. You evidently think the citizens of the Permian Basin would be better off with an economic decline?

          • CissyRenee

            Yet the gop ‘mindset’ really is the prevelant contributing factor to the apathy to the poor here, that’s just a fact.

          • wmadair

            But you present no data to prove your fact. Methinks you have none, and that your assertion is really just opinion fueled by partisan colored glasses.

          • CissyRenee

            DATA? My ‘data’ is what I see and hear here everyday! I volunteer in the community with some of the most marginalized people here and you make me so darned MAD but, hard as you try, your denial does not change the truth. My guess is that you don’t know what hunger feels like so it’s just an alien concept to you and yours that can just be relegated to a ‘fringe issue’ to you because you’re too busy lobbying for a 50 story monstrosity downtown to worry about hungry people. Does anybody in your world ever tell you like it is, ever?? I thought not, they’re too busy being impressed with your name.

          • wmadair

            You know nothing about me. My argument is not against helping the hungry, it is against blaming economic development for poverty.

            I am neither a republican nor a democrat, btw.

          • CissyRenee

            Actually, you’re talking to an empath and I know everything important about you, I can feel it like a radio tower feels sound waves. Didn’t see that coming did you? Have a nice day. I don’t wish you ill will, I wish you wisdom.

          • CissyRenee

            It doesn’t matter what flag you claim, the mindset is the same, btw.

          • Leisa Demostene

            No, I think the point of the article is that even in a booming area money isn’t trickling down. Your community would be wise to increase minimum wages so that businesses that are benefiting from the boom have to take care of their own employees rather than walk away with bigger profits and force food banks and emergency rooms make up the difference. Employers getting away with not paying living wages is about the same as them stealing money out of your pocket. Make the money trickle down. And then instead of getting food at the food bank they’ll have money to buy stuff and contribute to an even bigger boom. Making sure workers get paid a fair amount is not only the moral thing to do- it’s the smart thing to do.

          • CissyRenee

            Actually it’s also active duty service members they blame too but they don’t see anything wrong with the fact that my ACTIVE DUTY niece and her ACTIVE DUTY (both Navy) husband couldn’t eat without the food stamps they EASILY qualify for.

        • Sandy Young

          Why do you assume they are receiving Aid? The fact that you automatically assume that they are receiving assistance right off the bat tells a LOT about who you are and what you believe. What about retirees, people who have worked in the fields, or low paying jobs?

          There are 14 counties where there is no DPS office in Texas. Many people here don’t have birth certificates. They have to find someone to take them to a DPS office, after they have spent money to get a copy of their bc, if they can get one or if there even IS one, take time off work, drive hundreds of miles round trip, and stand in line for hours to get the “free” ID.

          Money was just cut from food stamps, women’s health care was shut down, the clinics are closing or closed, again, sometimes the only facility within hundreds of miles.

          Quite simply put, there is a Republican War on Women (and children and the elderly)…it is government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy and the rest can simply serve.

        • Robin

          So, you can go to a hospital emergency room to treat your diabetes or cancer or any number of illnesses that require ongoing treatment? I did not know that. Mainly because it’s not true. Oh yeah, that’s the Romney “healthcare” plan. If you get sick and don’t have insurance just call an ambulance and go to the doctor. That’s all free, right? You do know, don’t you, that every time someone uses the ER and can’t pay that the prices go up for ALL of us, right? So, in effect, you’re already paying for other people’s health care. Mull that around for a minute, why don’t you.

        • peachygrl

          Wow. You mean the ER will provide mammograms and Pap smears, blood sugar checks and well child visits if you just simply show up? Wow….who knew? Can I get my annual physical and colonoscopy too? How about diabetic teaching and blood pressure checks to be sure my blood pressure medication is working to keep me from having a stroke? It’s so exciting, this time we live in!!! I can go to the ER to get my flu shot now too? Great news!!!

        • Giselle O’Connor

          Head Start is NOT in each school, and you do realize the sequester has essentially destroyed the program, right?

    • Wes_Scott

      Obviously, you are a teabagger Republican who is unconcerned with facts and truth.

      • wmadair

        Do you live in the Permian Basin? Do you even live in Texas? Do you know the “facts?”

        • CissyRenee

          I do and have for many years, got any questions?

        • Marc

          I do not live in the Permian Basin. I do live in Texas (Native). I do know the facts because I have spent over 5 years fighting this issue and have educated myself very well. Even industry representatives complement me on how thoroughly I know the subject matter, and some even wonder if I am an industry insider-turned-environmentalist because of my superior knowledge of the issues, techniques and protocols.

    • BHorton2

      Let’s see Papa_Ray. Transportation they will need. How’s that Ez-Rider bus system you have there in Midland-Odessa working for you? Free is it? Stops at your front door does it? Oh. No? Well, how’s that 3 block walk in the rain and snow going to be for you this Winter? Can’t imagine? I bet! Have you yourself actually used it to go EVERYwhere you need to go for a week…or even a day? Did your entire family get to/have to do so also? How about your clothes? Got your entire closet at Briar Patch Village did ya? How ’bout your vittles. SNAP will get you about $140 a month, $4.50 a day. Tried that for a week or so have you? No. I thought so. Been down to the Food Bank and endured having to ask for food for yourself and your family? No? And yet you feel you know enough about surviving tough times to advise others? This grandpa says “Horsefeathers.” Yoda would be ashamed of you.

      • Jeremy

        Not disagreeing with your logic, but I think your argument would be more effective if you did not use rain or snow in West Texas to illustrate the plight of the poor.

        • Carol

          Midland/Odessa sees plenty of snow, Jeremy.

          • Jeremy

            Ok, maybe it does snow – sometimes. But the chances of walking in the rain (although it has rained recently) are slim to none. Here’s hoping someone does have to walk three blocks in the rain as BHorton2 states above. Not that I wish toil and suffering on anyone, but I would like to see West Texas get a little rainfall.

      • wmadair

        So you would rather have an economic decline? Would you rather there was more poverty? Is no amount of economic improvement good enough for you? Or would you prefer that every family be equally impoverished via socialism?

        • Leisa Demostene

          What a ridiculous over reaction. No one wants economic decline. We should all want fair and smart growth. Think about all the ways the current situation to relies on a social safety nets, verses how much better we could all be with some intelligent changes. make sure that minimum wages at least are living wages and set a limit on how many part time employees a company can have. companies should not be able to work all their employees just under full time in order to pass the cost of health care onto tax payers. No one should be allowed to exploit workers in America.

    • coconutwillie

      Hunger usually erases self righteous indignation, so if you ever go hungry any food bank will do.

    • CissyRenee

      I live here and it’s obvious to me that you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.

    • MidgardMortal

      “Almost”… Sucks for all those Almosts. My brother was an Almost. He died at 45, poor, sick and no insurance.
      BTW… I live in Texas. Which Texas do you live in? Maybe we should all move to yours.

  • Paula Alderson Beard

    The same scene is playing out if you live anywhere the Eagle Ford Shale Field. Rents have doubled and tripled, because property owners want to rent their 2-4 bedroom homes to groups of workers, getting $500 per person for rent. This leaves a lot of renters without many options if they don’t work in the oilfield. And of course, in Texas, Rick Perry has cut so many off food assistance or cut their benefits so harshly that they can’t afford rent OR food. Texas is not the utopia that Rick Perry portrays it to be, unless you have a great paying job and money. For the poor, it is a miserable existence.

    • wmadair

      The problems you describe result from housing shortages. It’s not the oil boom that’s causing the problem, but a shortage of housing caused by the previously weak economy. Yes, solutions are needed. But you sound as if you’d rather there be no economic boom.

      • CissyRenee

        I guess you have to live right in the middle of it to understand the myriad of issues that come with the situation.

      • Leisa Demostene

        It’s not just due to housing shortages. A lot of it’s due to greed. There are lots of people with a lot of money right now and they’re eating out and shopping more. Local businesses are making more. Some of that money should have gone towards giving their employees raises and then they would be able to afford the increase in housing. Instead too many choose to pay their employees as little as possible so that they can benefit in a hugely disproportionate manner. I used to believe in Reagan’s trickle down economics until I saw its flaw- it didn’t account for greed. The government needs to start making changes to combat greed, so that the entire community can benefit. Those business owners aren’t doing all the extra work- they shouldn’t be walking away with all the extra money.

        • Leisa Demostene

          or perhaps government needs to step in and put a cap on rents if that is the real problem. either way it boils down to greed. gov needs to combat greed. when any one group starts taking more than its fair percentage then gov should step in- unless you like picking up the tab created by their greed.

  • dsteakley

    stupidest headline of the day. i assume you’ve already built the stupid headline generator, /insert name of prosperous development/ creates hunger in /insert name of locale of prosperous development/. Just go ahead and write the general-purpose article: “Prosperity Creates Hunger.” idiots.

    • Eris de Suzerain

      Facts were cited, where are your facts to refute the claims made? Simply calling something “stupid” because you disagree with the ideas presented doesn’t make a great argument – please do share your evidence that the facts cited here were false.

      • wmadair

        dsteakley is obviously voicing an opinion. Opinions do not require facts.

        • CissyRenee

          You’re absolutely right! Talking out of one’s ear with no actual knowledge of the subject on hand is indeed a national sport.

      • dsteakley

        i haven’t examined the facts. i didn’t assert that the alleged facts were faulty. i said it was a stupid headline, and rather implied that it was a stupid premise for a story.

        that’s because there are intervening factors between the oil boom and hunger which the article doesn’t really examine, and factors which completely surround and subsume both the oil boom and hunger, which are also unexamined. the writer rather randomly selects one factor and argues, i presume from his or her bias, or because of perceived sensationalism, that it has caused more hunger.

        this article is logically parallel to a hypothetical story headlined “Pandas cause car accidents, death, in Washington DC.” When you read this hopefully imaginary article, you discover that the d’uhjournalist responsible for it has linked an increase in tourists driving in cars to see pandas in the national zoo to an increase in automobile accidents in the area around the zoo.

        It could very well be true that increased driving due to a panda craze could be correlated with more traffic fatalities. But, surely there would be other factors in the traffic fatalities beyond the mere existence of pandas in the vicinity?

        I kind of hoped my thrust would become clear from my suggestion that this article be converted into a general-purpose article headlined “/Prosperity Event/ Causes Hunger.” The prosperity event could be anything: the building of a new university, the opening of a new automobile factory, the innate cleverness and industriousness of a given population. Really, anything that causes an influx of migration to a given locale works.

        My main reaction was to the stupid headline. Here’s a better headline for this story: “Oil Patch Prosperity has winners and losers” and then in smaller type below, “Like Always with Prosperity.”

  • CissyRenee

    I live in Midland and, right now, we along with Odessa (we’ve grown so fast we’ve about merged into one city now) have the lowest unemployment figures in the nation. The home we bought here 13 years ago has tripled in value easily and this boom has caused a commercial explosion that is not to be believed. There isn’t a single business in the area that has all the employees they need and no place isn’t hiring, even McDonalds is offering up to $12 hr just to get warm bodies and can’t find enough. The housing shortage made slobbering greedy animals out of most landlords with rents tripling (or more) in a short time and SO MANY were priced out of their often meager homes here – just out on the streets with no compassion. Oil field jobs pay great but not everybody can work in that business and even the better than usual retail pay can’t keep up with the cost of living set by the people who make more so those people are left out of the boom really. So, while our tax base has grown FAT FAT FAT here, many are left behind in poverty. Two weeks ago the Midland SPCA closed due to no funding (in a city that kills MANY stray animals!) while Midland county is rolling in dough and they saved so many adoptable animals. Last week a much needed soup kitchen in Odessa announced they were going to have to close due to no funding in another city that is ROLLING IN DOUGH. The West TX Food Bank is ALWAYS in dire straights, always having to beg in a city that probably throws away more food than we eat. You know what Midland is doing with boom money?? They’re building a BEYOND RIDICULOUS 50 STORY BUILDING for retail and OIL COMPANY OFFICES downtown where the tallest building is maybe 10 stories and they’re giving them MILLIONS in TAX BREAKS to do it. Meanwhile the need is getting bigger all the time while the response to need gets smaller – THAT is how we’re paying forward for our blessings in W TX and I am NOT impressed at all and I don’t think that God or the Universe or Karma or whatever you believe in is either.

    • CissyRenee

      What didn’t you like, Mr. Adair, about the truth from someone living right in the middle of the issue at hand?

  • Nancy Wood

    Economic development isn’t what it is cracked up to be any more. For some people it brings a sense of dread because you know that economic development nowadays also means increased prices for everything that you can think of – to the ceiling in fact. Most people who have any sense of pride don’t want to be on welfare and begging for handouts, so when you say you can go down to the local soup line and get a free meal for yourself or your kids, that isn’t really what most people want. Jacked up prices and misplacing large amounts of people is not good economic development. It just brings more hardship for people who are already struggling in many cases. To me it is missing the point to tell people that they can just go down to the free clinic or head start program or where ever to get a meal. That isn’t a permanent solution to anything, nor does it make anyone feel any better about their situation or themselves either. It still doesn’t correct the fact that only some will have good jobs and the rest will be in the ditch because of higher and higher pricing of everything.

    • dsteakley

      it was always thus. it will always be thus. even jesus H Christ noted, “the poor will always be with us.” as another posted queried, would you rather no oil boom at all?

  • Robert G Smith

    #1 Keep in mind that booms go bust, so these food banks better be stocking up for the hard times ahead.

    • CissyRenee

      That’s kind of the point – even in the best economic times people are not giving economic support to the charities that take care of the least of us. Even in the best financial times non profits can’t keep their doors open. If they can’t even cover present need, saving for the future isn’t a realistic option.

  • Steves Harris-Puckett

    Sorry, do not believe what our Congressman, K Michael “cut them” Conaway, has to say about this issue! There’s probably no hunger in his circle of friends/donors!

    Before You Cut Them, Know That Food Stamps Worked as Promised

    SNAP Remains a Safety Net for Veterans and Families in Need

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »