When The Helping Center of Marble Falls Area looked as if its back was against the wall, several local restaurants pitched in to help.
About three weeks ago, Sam Pearce, the food pantry’s executive director, saw the number of clients spike as many people in the hospitality industry were furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It triggered an added demand on the facility’s supplies.
Around the same time, many restaurants found themselves with a surplus of food after Governor Greg Abbott directed food service businesses to close dine-in areas in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.
Instead of letting it go to waste, Crazy Gal’s Cafe, with locations in Burnet, Kingsland, and Granite Shoals, and the River City Grille in Marble Falls donated more than 500 pounds of perishable food to The Helping Center, 1315 Broadway in Marble Falls.
“With food costs and labor costs and people not coming out, they needed to make a decision,” Pearce said.
Crazy Gal’s management told its staff to take some of the extra food home to their families, so Pearce accepted what was left. And what was left was a lot.
“I get all this food of everything they use: homemade bread, homemade biscuits, homemade buns, wheat bread and white bread, beans, and thousands of eggs,” Pearce said. “Lots of produce: onions, peppers, and potatoes, cabbage and carrots. It was a lot of perishables.”
Pearce received so much that he quickly realized The Helping Center’s facility wasn’t large enough to keep it all.
He donated some of it to the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, which is preparing meals five days a week to deliver to those who want them, and to Mission Marble Falls, located in St. Frederick Baptist Church, which cooks hot meals each Tuesday and Thursday.
Both facilities are feeding close to 500 people a day.
When the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into the Highland Lakes, many hospitality industry employees were suddenly furloughed. Many immediately reached out to food pantries and other nonprofits whose primary work is helping those who’ve fallen on hard times.
The Helping Center is assisting individuals who had never used its services before. Along with regular clients, Pearce said the number of people needing assistance jumped.
Since a large spike in demand several weeks ago, Pearce said the number of people visiting The Helping Center has tapered off.
He attributes that to the stay-home order issued March 31 by Governor Abbott, which is currently in place until April 30.
“Everybody has enough food,” he said. “People are taking it seriously and staying home.”
But The Helping Center does have a need for donations of nonperishable items, he said, noting it recently assisted a family in paying utilities and obtaining gas cards.
With people emptying the shelves of local grocery stores, Pearce said monetary donations are welcome. He’ll take that money to the Central Texas Food Bank, an organization dedicated to ending hunger that obtains food and sells it to food pantries at affordable prices.
“Every dollar we get, we can turn into five or ten dollars,” he said. “My dollar is so much stronger with the Central Texas Food Bank.”
Call the Helping Center at 830-693-5689 to make a donation.
For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the DailyTrib.com coronavirus resources webpage.