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Hunger Alliance changing name, reaching out

Jaelyn Nelson, executive director of the Burnet County Hunger Alliance, at a monthly food pantry set up at the Hoover Valley Volunteer Fire Department. The alliance, which works to fill food gaps in the area, is changing its name and expanding its coverage to include Llano and Blanco counties. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

The Burnet County Hunger Alliance will become the Hill Country Hunger Alliance on Jan. 1, 2023, board members decided on Tuesday, Nov. 29, during their last meeting of the year. Alliance head Jaelyn Nelson will reach out to food pantries in Llano and Blanco counties to invite them to join forces in fighting hunger in Central Texas. 

“We need to do this,” said board member Lottie McCorkle, who is also the executive director of LACare, a Burnet food pantry. “I know Blanco County has wanted to join, and we need to include them.”

Food pantries in Buchanan Dam and Kingsland also would be eligible to work with the expanded alliance.

The Burnet County Hunger Alliance is a volunteer group of food pantries, churches, school administrators, elected officials, area leaders, and active residents committed to ending hunger in their communities. The alliance coordinates and directs people to existing resources and looks for and fills gaps in service. 

Also at the meeting, board members reported on food pantry supplies, community Thanksgiving dinners, and the results of Hunger Awareness Month, which was in September. 

A big delivery from the Central Texas Food Bank came in the day of the meeting, reported board member Pat Preston, who volunteers at the First Baptist Church of Marble Falls food pantry. 

“We have a lot more food to select from now,” he said. “We got some meat for a change, but we still need peanut butter and canned vegetables.” 

Supply chain issues during the summer and fall reduced offerings from the Central Texas Food Bank, making it hard to meet needs in the Highland Lakes. Area pantries are able to shop from the food bank at a lower cost than at grocery stores.

“We went from 11 pages of items to choose from to one page,” Preston said. “One month, we had only seven items to choose from.”

Fall food drives helped fill the gaps, including a canned goods competition between Marble Falls and Burnet school districts during football games. 

“The Battle of the Cans was mind-blowing,” said board member Kaitlen Puckett, a social worker with the Marble Falls Independent School District. “We collected around 6,000 pounds.”

The Helping Center of Marble Falls and LACare in Burnet split the collection almost 50/50 based on the number of cans donated by each community. It was the first Battle of the Cans food drive, which will continue in 2023, Puckett said. 

“We’ll have more time to promote it next year,” she said. “We had only two weeks this year, so I’m hoping we’ll do even better next time.”

The annual Picayune-KBEY Food Drive was also a huge success, collecting about $9,500 in cash and more than 4,000 pounds of food. The money and food were also split between The Helping Center and LACare.  

Nelson reported on large gatherings for several community Thanksgiving dinners. Joseph’s Food Pantry in Granite Shoals and St. Frederick’s Baptist Church in Marble Falls each served more than 500 people at their respective dinners.

The alliance’s next meeting is at noon Feb. 28, 2023, at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 105 RR 1431 in Marble Falls. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com