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Volunteers and donations are down at Highland Lakes food assistance programs because of the pandemic, but Pam Rogers of the Burnet County Hunger Alliance is confident people will step up and help when they become aware of the need.

“Hunger doesn’t go away,” she said, adding that most people probably don’t realize they know someone who is hungry. “It’s a woman at church sitting next to them who relies on Social Security; it’s the recently divorced mom with a growing family who gets a little child support and hasn’t been able to get a good job yet; and it’s just those people who don’t have a safety net.”

The Burnet County Hunger Alliance, a coalition of food pantries, churches, organizations, volunteers, and officials working together to end hunger and food insecurity in the county, keeps a list of facility needs that gets updated on a regular basis. 

Those needs currently include:

The Blessings program at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Marble Falls could also use a little support. It provides food to local school district students in need, particularly on weekends when they don’t have access to campus meals.

“All of the food pantries and food missions always need volunteers,” Rogers said. “Volunteerism is down across the board because of COVID. The people at these pantries and food kitchens, they always rise to the occasion and they don’t let COVID keep them from fulfilling their mission, but they could all use some more help.”

The alliance’s Jaelyn Nelson, who is also an AmeriCorps VISTA member, updates the organization’s website with pantry needs as well as other information, including the Burnet County Hunger and Living Expenses Report. The latest report was compiled and posted in November 2021 and might not reflect the current situation.

“It’s one of those things that, as soon as you put it together, it’s out of date,” Rogers said. “The cost of food and other expenses has just continued to go up.”

Those increases hit families who are already struggling as well as others who might be teetering on the edge. 

Unexpected issues can also lead people to food pantries, Rogers said.

“For a lot of people, it’s one unexpected expense that might cause them to need a little help,” she said. “Maybe a car breaks down or someone gets sick or they have to go to the emergency room, or maybe they miss a day or more at work and lose that income for a while.”

Food pantries offer assistance in those times. For some people, it’s a short-term problem until they get back on their feet.

“If you talk to the people at the food pantries or mission kitchens, they’ll tell you they don’t always see the same faces,” Rogers said.

The pantries and alliance are available to people who need help over long periods or just a few times. The facilities are open and serving people throughout the year, so donations and volunteers are always needed.

“The good thing is we have a community that really cares about people,” Rogers said. 

She pointed out the most recent food pantry, The Cupboard at Cottonwood Shores, started because Cottonwood Shores Police Chief Johnny Liendo and Councilor Cheri Trinidad saw a need. 

“And the Cottonwood Shores community supports it,” Rogers said. “Chief Liendo will even deliver food to people who can’t get to the pantry. That’s the type of community we live in.”

The Burnet County Hunger Alliance has compiled a list of area food pantries with addresses, hours, and contact information. 

daniel@thepicayune.com