DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
The wheels of the Texas Department of Agriculture move slowly, which Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes Executive Director Bill Drake knew from prior experience. But those slow wheels are making it difficult to provide an evening meal for the more than 350 kids across the area who the club serves.
That evening meal is the last meal some of these club members will get until the next morning at school.
“We’re scrambling to get some donations and help,” Drake said. “We don’t have a food program right now, and we’re reaching out to the public for help.”
It could be March before the local club, and others, have another fully funded food program in place.
The Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes was part of a national program that funded the local food program, but Drake and his board learned late last year that the national group was pulling out. In an effort to pick up the food program, the Texas Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs began the process of taking it over.
“But they have to work through the (TDA) and (U.S. Department of Agriculture), and that’s a lot of things that could go wrong,” Drake said.
As of Jan. 1, the Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes doesn’t have a food program.
The Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes through its four sites — Marble Falls, Granite Shoals, Kingsland, and Burnet — serves about 350 kids a day. One of the first things the kids get when the arrive, or at least at some point in their stop at the club, is a meal.
“When kids come in, they’re often hungry,” Drake said. “One of the first things we get them to do is study and do their homework. But if they’re hungry, you can imagine how tough it is for them to focus or do homework.”
Some of the younger elementary students might have had lunch between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., so they’re could be even more hungry.
On top of that, for some of the club members, the meal they get in the afternoon at one of the sites might be the last one they eat before they return to school the next morning and receive a school-provided breakfast.
“Hunger and food insecurity is a really issue for some of our kids,” Drake said. “I don’t know if a lot of people understand that, but we have kids in the community who face real food issues. It’s meals at school and here, and when they get home, well, it’s a problem. Imagine what it’s like for one of those kids when they leave here on a Friday and don’t go back to school until Monday.”
Drake and the staff are asking the public to help. Drake said there are three basic ways to support the Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes:
• donate money;
• donate non-perishable food;
• and partner with local food vendors and restaurants.
People can drop off or donate items or money at:
• Marble Falls Unit (which also will provide for Highland Lakes Elementary School), 1701 Broadway in Marble Falls, (830) 798-2582.
• Burnet Unit (which also provides for Burnet Teen Center), 704 Northington in Burnet, (512) 756-1444.
• Kingsland Unit, 3435 RR 1431 West in Kingsland, (325) 388-2800.
The Highland Lakes club doesn’t want to dip into operational funds because that would impact the local programs. Drake hopes local restaurants would be willing to partner with the club and provide some meals.
While the Texas Alliance is in the process of taking over the food programs, Drake said they must submit the plan to the TDA, which takes up to 14 days to review it. If TDA officials find a problem or other issue with the application, they’ll kick it back. Upon resubmission, the TDA then can take another 14 days to review it again.
“Which they usually do,” Drake said.
Even when the TDA approves the application and program, since it’s a statewide one, the agency would likely send it out for bids, which adds more time before it gets fully implemented.
“We just want to feed kids,” Drake said. “That’s all.”
Go to bgc-hl.com for more information on the club or call one of the above numbers.