Two years ago, The Leader brought news of a small but dedicated non profit agency operating on the west side of Oak Forest, serving 9,000 free and nutritious suppers each day to income-qualified children in Houston. Now, two years later, Be A Champion, Inc. serves 45,000 kids a day across Texas. The nonprofit still operates out of its humble single-story office, but its original 60 employees blossomed to 600 statewide, and the impact on our state’s hungry children is profound and consequential.
“It even amazes us! We’ve experienced 61.5 percent growth in three years,” stated Be A Champion’s CEO, Jaron Barganier. “It’s been a challenge, but somehow, we’ve done it, and we continue to grow. We must. There are so many hungry children in Texas.”
Be a Champion, Inc. was founded by two University of Houston football players in 2001. Co-founder/CEO Bargainer, and his friend and Co-founder/COO James Hong, soon learned that college athletes have an impact on youngsters – that children viewed them as mentors.
In his senior year at UH, Barganier drew a plan for a nonprofit agency dedicated to youth on his dinner napkin while dining with his mom. His mother, always a source of strength, encouraged the young man to pursue his napkin dream. That summer, Barganier and Hong launched a sports camp with six under-privileged children. BAC was born.
Today, the agency provides a variety of during-school, after-school, tutorial and extended-day programs in addition to its “Champion Fuel” supper service. One of BAC’s most popular programs is called “Little Coogs.” Throughout football season, school-aged children from Harris County attend UH games free, tour the campus and meet student athletes. For most, it is their first visit introduction to a college campus.
What do all the programs have in common? Each provides our city and state’s children with opportunities for a brighter future.
However, the “Champion Fuel” meal program forms the agency’s backbone. This meal program now includes income-qualified children in Harris and five surrounding counties, as well as San Antonio, Dallas, and the Rio Grande Valley regions of Texas. BAC currently serves more than 70 Texas school districts in 250 schools. It’s an enormous undertaking, but critical to the future.
“In addition to being hungry, a large number of our state’s children are not getting sufficient nutrition in their diets,” explained Barganier. “If they are lucky enough to go home to food at night, it is not healthy food. Over time, a child will become malnourished, and that has a negative impact on his or her ability to learn. A malnourished child is an under-educated child.”
Federally subsidized by the Texas Department of Agriculture, Champion Fuel suppers are delivered directly to students in schools between the hours of 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. The fare is fresh, attractive and sealed in individual containers. Each meal includes items such as baby carrots, string cheese, grilled chicken sliders, and organic, locally sourced fruit.
While taking care of Texas’ children, BAC also takes care of Texas’ families. The company starts its hourly workforce at about 30 percent above minimum wage, with some earning more than $20 an hour.
“We are committed to leaving a footprint that makes the lives of all of our families and children a little better. It’s in our DNA; it’s our mission,” Barganier concluded with a smile.
To learn more or sponsor some local children, please go to bachamp.org.