Restaurants are stepping up to the plate as they provide and distribute free meals to community organizations for families in need.
Local restaurants have teamed up with Meals 4-One and All, a community initiative aimed at feeding the hungry throughout Hays County. The program was launched April 5 by the Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce.
Every week, participating restaurants submit a spreadsheet to the Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce with a total number of meals sold, respectively. For every four meals sold, one meal in the form of a voucher is donated to one of the three participating organizations: HaysHope2Go, Hays County Food Bank or Greater San Marcos Youth Council.
The charities then distribute the vouchers to individuals in need throughout the area. As of Tuesday, April 28, 3,014 meal vouchers have been donated.
Meals 4-One and All was established in response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on local families and businesses. Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Julie Snyder said the overall outcome of the program has been a win-win situation for all parties involved.
“It’s important to us to keep businesses open and keep people employed,” Snyder said. “It’s been a domino effect; the restaurants provide a service that our public needs, and then they’re also helping the less fortunate have meals that they might not have had.”
Esperanza Orosco, a co-founder of HaysHope2Go, a program aimed at alleviating hunger among Hays CISD students and families, said the program has begun donating meal vouchers in addition to food items to families in need.
HaysHope2Go launched Oct. 2019 and was originally designed to provide food to students during winter and spring breaks. However, the program recently began donating a week’s worth of food and meal vouchers to 15-20 families in need every Friday in response to COVID-19.
The program makes sure the number of meal vouchers donated equals the number of individuals living in the home. Orosco said HaysHope2Go also ensures the location of the participating restaurants is in close proximity to the family in which the meal vouchers are donated to.
School counselors notify HaysHope2Go of families in the district that are in most need of food assistance. Orosco said families were excited and in disbelief when they were told they would also be receiving meal vouchers in addition to food donations each week.
“Some of these families have never been to some of these restaurants so it’s a huge treat during this time to also get a meal voucher,” Orosco said. “They have been not only happy but grateful because it’s another meal they don’t have to worry about.”
There are currently 12 restaurants participating in the program. All participating restaurants have been asked to commit to the program for a minimum of three months.
Justin Pearson, owner of San Marcos BBQ, said for every four house specials or family pack entrees sold, the restaurant will donate one voucher redeemable for any entree off the menu.
He said the golden part about being a business owner is being able to give back to those in need.
“I worked for companies all my life and you always imagine you’ll never be able to give anything,” Pearson said. “It’s truly awesome to have this revenue and be able to do something with it and help other people.”
Each restaurant also has the flexibility to determine what entree and/or menu item will count toward meal sales and donations.
Forrest Higdon, co-owner of Gumby’s Pizza, said the restaurant has donated 580 meal vouchers as of Wednesday, April 29. Each voucher can be redeemed for a medium cheese or pepperoni pizza.
Higdon said now more than ever it is important that everyone impacted by COVID-19 is provided with support in order to get through this difficult time.
“We all need to stick together to get through this,” Higdon said. “We are helping our employees and also turning around and helping those who don’t have enough money to feed their families right now.”
Kyle Area Chamber of Commerce hopes to expand Meals 4-One and All to other communities along the I-35 corridor.
For more information on Meals 4-One and All and to view the full list of participating restaurants, visit https://www.kylechamber.org/meals-4/1-and-all.