Alliance joins forces to eliminate hunger

Glynis Crawford Smith/The Highlander

Kathy Savage, left, the Highland Lakes Service League (HLSL) liaison to the Marble Falls Helping Center delivers food for the Marble Falls Helping Center to volunteer Barbara King. Monthly donations from churches and service organizations help keep the shelves stocked for some 1,700 people in need.

The Burnet County Commissioners Court, joined by the Burnet County Hunger Alliance (BCHA), proclaimed September as Hunger Awareness Month during the Tuesday, Sept. 12 court meeting.

The BCHA is a volunteer group of food pantries, churches, school administrators, elected officials, area leaders and active citizens committed to ending hunger in Burnet County. The Alliance provides a forum to build relationships and communication for working together to comprehensively feed the hungry in Burnet County.

“We’ve had a busy first year creating our website with a calendar listing dates and times of operation for food pantries and community meals,” said group facilitator Chad Nelson. The calendars have been used by social service agencies, churches and were placed in the backpacks of children attending the Back 2 School Bash. The BCHA also provided volunteers to visit with parents during the Back to School Bash about food pantries and community meals in their area.

The website, burnetcountyhungeralliance.org, is used to announce the need for volunteers or food and share resources.

“We often feel isolated and alone,” said Sam Pearce, executive director of The Helping Center. It’s amazing how the word gets out and resources appear thanks to the website and spreading the word through the members of the Alliance.”

Pearce said the center has begun to serve 45 new families since August and some 500 families amount to 1,700 people who regularly depend on the center for nutritional meals. The most current need? Peanut butter.

“When you feed 145 families a week, it goes fast,” Pearce said.

Harvey evacuees are not counted in with those recently served. Some of the recent increase can be attributed to the economic conditions, but the period before school starts is predictably busy.

“New families are getting settled,” said Pearce. “With the price of rent and utility deposits it takes a lot to get into a new place. We want to make food 'not an issue.'”

Members of the BCHA voice issues and concerns and the group works to find solutions and/or share best practices.

“We’re learning from one another. LACare (Lakes Area Care) is developing a resource card for first responders based upon a model used by first responders in Marble Falls,” said executive director, Lottie McCorkle.

A disregard for the Park Road 4 boundary separating Burnet and Marble Falls led to the organization of concurrent community meals served in the cities the week after Christmas when agencies delivering or providing food are not open.

“Supporting and publicizing the need for volunteers to sustain the Groceries to Go program, a group doing the driving for homebound individuals and the addition of St. John’s Catholic Church of Marble Falls community meal are part of the countywide momentum the Hunger Alliance has fostered,” said Kathy Nicholl.

A parent questionnaire has also been administered to find out why children aren’t taking advantage of the summer meal programs provided by the two Burnet County school districts. “We want to use all the resources available to us while remembering some may not feel comfortable in using what is offered,” said Pam Rodgers.

Trinity Episcopal Church is providing the meeting space and some of the people power to plan agendas and help organize efforts of the Alliance.

“We want to transition the group from Trinity and more into the community with other members of the Alliance providing leadership. Sharing the leadership will help sustain our efforts,” said the Rev. David Sugeno.

Check the website for a brochure with schedules of food programs, for volunteer opportunities and where to donate food or funds to support the efforts in your community to address hunger. Email the BCHA at info@burnetcountyhungeralliance.org if you would like information on the next meeting of the organization.

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