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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Hays County Food Bank move to impact students, locals

Kobe Arriaga
story Capes (left) organizes food alongside his coworker Francisco “Chico” Macedo (right), Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 inside Hays County Food Bank.

The Hays County Food Bank, a nonprofit addressing food insecurity by distributing over a million pounds of food a year, is relocating to the Hays Co. Bar-b-que buildings in hopes of expanding its scope.

According to Lisa Young, Hays County Food Bank’s executive director, the current food bank, located on Herndon Street, is a 2,200-square-foot building with not enough space to accommodate the growing rate of food insecurity in the county. Young said the funds for the $4.5 million purchase of the new location came from sources like private donors, government grants and over $1 million coming in through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The current building will be sold by March, with a timeline of the relocation to be finalized in summer 2024.

“I could fit two of [our current building] into one of the new ones, so it is something…having extra space is going to allow us to set up more trucks,” Young said. “There is some programming we will also be able to bring in that will transform people’s experience and build community.”

The new location will include two buildings, a large outdoor space and 155 parking spots. Young said the food bank plans to spend $1 million on remodeling, which would include construction for offices and freezer space.

Food insecurity is the lack of consistent access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life. In 2021, Hays County reported an 11.8% food insecurity rate, 1.6% higher than the 10.2% national rate that year.

In hopes of addressing the needs of the county, Young said the food bank is going to implement a client choice model. People would be able to come and pick out their food instead of relying on the food bank’s mobile or drive-thru distributions. However, since the Hays County Food Bank serves cities beyond San Marcos, mobile distributions will still be available.

“This is going to reduce food waste because people will be picking things out that they feel they will cook as opposed to some items we give you that you might not care for,” Young said.

According to Young, the Hays County Food Bank gets its food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Central Texas Food Bank, grocery stores and community food drives.

As per the National College Health Assessment (NCHA), in spring 2023 Texas State University recorded a food insecurity rate of 56.8%, surpassing the national average of 46.6% among all U.S. colleges.

One of the sites Hays County Food Bank distributes to is Texas State’s free on-campus food pantry, Bobcat Bounty. Bobcat Bounty’s Project Director Lesli Biediger-Friedman said the pantry launched on Feb. 1, 2018, but could not have opened if it wasn’t for the Hays County Food Bank.

Biediger-Friedman said at the beginning, 100% of the food the pantry distributed was from Hays County Food Bank. Now, 90% of the food in the pantry is from the food bank.

Bobcat Bounty runs a “client-choice” pantry exclusively on Mondays in the Family and Consumer Sciences building due to its status as a student-run pantry, limiting its capacity to operate on additional days. However, Biediger-Friedman said with the Hays County Food Bank expansion, that could change.

“They’re going to have space, they’re going to have access for trucks to come in, and I think it is a great new location, right off the interstate in a really important area of San Marcos… so that looks good to me and to [Bobcat Bounty],” Biediger-Friedman said.

According to Biediger-Friedman, Bobcat Bounty serves 130-170 “unique households” per week, which is an increase from previous years. In 2023 it served 1,200 students.

“[With the expansion] it will continue to be a conversation with the Hays County Food Bank, Bobcat Bounty and with the university in general, just trying to see are there ways we can do more,” Biediger-Friedman said.

Archana Aryal, a microbiology freshman, said she frequents Bobcat Bounty because as an international student, she is struggling to find income and having a resource like the pantry is vital to her.

“With the Hays County Food Bank, it works as cycle for me because they provide food to this pantry which provides food for me… with them growing that will only help me even more,” Aryal said.

For more information on the Hays County Food Bank, visit its website

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