Friday, November 11, 2011

Dallas No Kid Hungry Summit

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson: “We will not stop until we know that every child is fed.”
            On Wednesday, November 9th the Texas Hunger Initiative hosted a “No Kid Hungry Dallas Summit,” in partnership with Share our Strength, USDA, The Christian Life Commission, CitySquare, and Feed3 all the Dallas Farmer’s Market.  

"Next Steps" - a Q&A panel on hunger solutions
            “Texas leads in many things, but hunger in children should not be one of them” said Johnson.  Currently Texas is one of the top 5 states in childhood food insecurity and hunger in children means more than poor nutrition.  There are many established links between hunger and poor academic performance, behavior issues, and absenteeism.   “Simply put, hungry kids can’t learn,” said Bill Ludwig, Regional Administrator for the United States Department of Agriculture.  Almost 100% of Texas schools offer free breakfast to eligible students, but only half of those students actually get the meal.  Many students miss out because school buses run late or they fear the social stigma attached to eating the free meal.  Ludwig advocated for the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program, a model that allows to students to eat breakfast in the first 15 minutes of their day in the classroom.  "Once we started breakfast in the classroom teachers stopped constantly hearing the phrase "when's lunch" noted Dora Rivas, food services director for Dallas ISD, “and BIC has cut down on behavior issues and nurse visits.”
Melissa Roy,SOS Director of
State Partnerships and Jeremy
Everett, Director of THI
            The summit also discussed hunger in adults.  Currently only 50% of eligible Texas residents receive SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits, a well funded program. "Hunger is not a resource issue. We just need a model to get the resources to those who need it," said Jeremy Everett, director of the Texas Hunger Initiative,  “We have hunger for 3 reasons - lack of infrastructure, lack of collaboration, and lack of accountability.”  SNAP has an economic stimulator effect as well.  Research shows that for every $1 of SNAP benefits spent, $1.87 in economic returns is generated. 
It is the hope of the participants and sponsors of the hunger summit to begin more intentional collaboration between private and public programs and individuals and organizations.  Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, surveying the room of hunger advocates, commented "We have too many well meaning people in our town to let hunger like this happen.”
A list of highlights from the hunger summit can be found on our twitter feed.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Status of Elderly and Childhood Hunger Presentation

            The Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) Lecture Series is a way to engage the local community, Baylor students, and Baylor faculty and staff in hunger related issues.  “Raising awareness” is a large component of combatting food insecurity and the lecture series provides a forum for experts in the field to convey their knowledge, expertise, and perspective to an interested and concerned audience.
            We recently hosted Celia Cole, senior policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, to present and lead discussion on “The Status of Elderly and Childhood Hunger in Texas.”  Cole is a leading advocate for hunger in Texas and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the issue.  In addition to her current policy work at CPPP she worked as a Policy Specialist for the Texas Department of Human Services and as a Health and Human Services Policy Analyst for a private consulting firm in Washington, D.C.  “Education is a large part of our work,” said Cole, “one of the biggest barriers we face in combatting hunger and poverty is a lack of knowledge about the history of the problem and what is currently being done about it.”  Among the wealth of insight provided, the presentation included some helpful “hard facts” about hunger in Texas:
  • Only 50% of eligible Texas individuals get SNAP (formerly called food stamps) benefits.
  • Hunger costs Texas $9 billion annually.
  •  Last year SNAP benefits generated $9.1 billion economic benefits in Texas.
  • The current Federal measure for poverty is the same measure of poverty used since the 1960’s.  It does not take into account the cost of childcare, housing, and medical care.
  • Waco residents need to make 166% income about the poverty measure to make basic ends meet. 
“Hearing the history of the food assistance programs helped make sense of the current trends and statistics in food insecurity” said Baylor School of Social Work lecturer Becky Scott, “and it gave fresh perspective on the ramifications of the problem.”
            The THI lecture series is a reoccurring event.  The next scheduled speaker will be Erin Brackney, manager of research and learning for the OneStar Foundation, who will speak “Mapping Resources and Needs in Texas.”
            Other facts, statistics, and insights from Cole’s presentation can be found on our Twitter feed.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Status of Elderly and Childhood Hunger - THI Lecture Series

           On Thursday, November 3rd at 12:30pm, Celia Cole, senior policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP), will be leading a discussion on the “Status of Elderly and Childhood Hunger in Texas” at the Baylor School of Social Work.  The discussion will feature an informative lecture and time for Q&A.  The event starts at 12:30pm.  Attendees may bring a “brown bag” lunch.
Ceila Cole is a leading expert on food policy in Texas. In addition to her current policy work at CPPP she worked as a Policy Specialist for the Texas Department of Human Services and as a Health and Human Services Policy Analyst for a private consulting firm in Washington, D.C.  CPPP is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the poor in Texas by working to improve economic and social conditions through public policy work, research, and education.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

KWTX Report - 6 billion dollars unused in fight against childhood hunger

[External link] KWTX reports on childhood hunger in Texas, the programs used to combat it, and the untaped resources left on the table (and visits the Texas Hunger Initiative).  Watch the story here.

The Call to Serve the Hungry

In the video below Jeremy Everett, executive director of the Texas Hunger Initiative talks about the Christian call to serve and his experience in combatting poverty and hunger during a homily at Baylor chapel.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Food Stamped Screening - THI Lecture Series

The Texas Hunger Initiative will host a screening of "Food Stamped" a film that documents one family's attempt to eat healthy and survive on a food stamp budget.  The screening will take place on Thursday, September 29th at noon at the Baylor School of Social Work.  A panel discussion with Jessica Davila and Sonia White from CitySquare, a poverty focused non-profit in Dallas, will follow.  The event is open to all interested community members.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Increasing School Breakfast in Texas - A VISTA Story

By Mary Agnew - AmericCorps VISTA 
(originally posted on the Food Nutrition Services section of the USDA website)

Growing up in a middle-class household, free and reduced lunch was not part of my vocabulary. Not once did I worry about the availability of my next meal. As an adult, I have joined the AmeriCorps VISTA Anti-Hunger Corps to gain experience in the field of nutrition education in order to reach my goal of becoming a registered dietitian. I had no idea that working at the Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor University would lead to such an eye-opening experience.

During my college years I did volunteer work sporadically feeding the homeless at a local church. The face of hunger to me was a disheveled person in tattered clothes sleeping on a city bus stop bench. Now, the face of hunger could be the 9-year-old at the elementary school down the street who relies on school meals as his sole source of nutrition. He comes to school Monday lethargic, falls asleep in class and continually asks his teacher “How much longer till lunch?” This is why I feel that school nutrition programs are so vital to our society.

Mary Agnew (left) and Lisa Losasso (Dairy MAX) at a breakfast event at Connally ISD in Waco, Texas, where they talked about why breakfast in the classroom is so important.

Of all the children who qualify for free and reduced lunch in Texas, just over half participate in school breakfast. The goal for my VISTA year is to increase access to school breakfast so that every child in Texas starts the day with food in their belly. The Breakfast in the Classroom program is my main focus, and the program is gaining momentum across the Nation. I developed a Breakfast in the Classroom toolkit and teamed up with Dairy MAX and the USDA to spread the good word about the breakfast program that will bring breakfast participation rates close to 100% while providing kids with the nutrition they need to succeed during the school day. Connally Primary and Elementary school are starting Breakfast in the Classroom August 22, which is the first day of school out here. They are going to do the "Grab and Go" method!"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DairyMax and Texas Hunger Initiative present check to Connally ISD for Breakfast in the Classroom

Lisa Losasso (DairyMax) and Mary Agnew (Texas Hunger Initiative) present a check to Connally ISD
        At the Connally ISD school board meeting on September 19th, 2011 DairyMax and the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) presented a check to assist the costs of running the Breakfast in the Classroom program.  The funds will be used to cover the costs of things like coolers, serving tools, and cleaning supplies.

Connally ISD rolled out the Breakfast in the Classroom program in their primary and elementary schools for the first time in their district this school year.  DairyMax and THI have been working with the district since May, meeting with faculty and staff, presenting the program, running through logistics, and serving as a knowledge base for the program.

Currently only 54% of eligible Texas students eat the free breakfast offered at schools.  Breakfast in the classroom aims to increase breakfast participation to students in need.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Due to Wildfire Disaster SNAP Benefits can be use to purchase hot, prepared foods in Bastrop


Effective immediately, retail food stores licensed by the Food and Nutrition Service to accept SNAP benefits in the following county within Texas under the Presidential Declaration for Individual Assistance can accept SNAP benefits in exchange for HOT foods: Bastrop

These special rules are in effect through October 31, 2011.

If hot foods are purchased with EBT benefits from September 14, 2011, through October 31, 2011, the purchases are NOT subject to sales tax, as the hot foods are considered SNAP eligible.
We encourage all SNAP authorized retail food stores in the above area listed above to post a special notice in the store letting SNAP customers know that they can use their SNAP EBT card to purchase hot foods during this period.

Thank you for helping us in aiding the survivors of this disaster.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Food Deserts and Levitical Law

“From among all the land animals, these are the creatures that you may eat. Any animal that has divided hoofs and is cleft-footed and chews the cud – such you may eat.  But among those that chew the cud or have divided hoofs, you shall not eat etc, etc, etc….” – Leviticus 11

            Levitical food laws are generally a passed over part of the Bible.  It’s not that they seem threatening or confusing but they just seem to have little to offer anyone living in the 21st century.  There are a couple of ways to answer the “why” of Levitical food laws.  Some of the prohibitions can possibly be connected to food safety issues.  Pigs have split hoofs but do not “chew the cud,” so they are prohibited.  Upon visual inspection (the only tool available at the time) pigs are not the cleanest animals.  Pork can carry trichinosis and given the conditions for slaughter and preparation in the ancient world, the disease could pose a serious threat.  The birds prohibited in further passages (v. 13-19) are either full scavengers or birds of prey that also scavenge and it is safe to assume that an animal that eats the rotting remains of other animals probably isn’t the safest thing for a human being to consume.  Levitical law encourages the eating of bugs (v. 21-22), which seems an odd choice for “cleanliness,” but makes sense upon further inspection.  Eating insects has become somewhat of a hipster trend in light of the “sustainable” movement; they are numerous and cultivating them does not impact the earth in the negative way that raising livestock tends to do.  Insects would serve as an excellent source of protein for desert dwellers such as the Israelites (some have argued that the United States should consider rethinking our culinary attitudes towards insects).
            Although there are many more interesting insights that can be made with Levitical law, its main purpose (relevant to our work at the Texas Hunger Initiative) was to serve as a constant reminder from God that Israel was special.   One cannot escape a message that is part of something you experience 3 times a day.  Every meal drove home the fact that Israel was set apart.  In our culture food often serves a similar purpose.  It is more than just nutrition.  Birthdays, anniversaries, and other special celebrations are accompanied by special foods.   Certain types of food can serve as status symbols - both positive and negative.  For individuals in poverty the available foods have significant meaning. 
            23 million Americans live in “food deserts,” communities that do not have grocery stores or other healthy food retailers.  Individuals in such communities, including children, are forced to live on junk food from convenience stores. In food deserts the obtainable foods serve as a negative reminder that one is without.  Poor nutrition in children is a deterrent to education and learning.  Ironically, Obesity runs rampant in lower income communities due to the high number of calories contained in cheap meals.  The lack of consistent to access to healthy and nutritious foods contributes greatly to the cycle of poverty.  As evidenced by Levitcal law, food can serve a positive purpose beyond simple sustenance.  The food desert epidemic is a tragic reversal of the dignity giving properties of food.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Waco and Connally ISD piloting Breakfast in the Classroom

(originally posted on and in the Waco Tribune Herald, reposted with permission)

By Regina Dennis

Tribune-Herald staff writer

South Waco Elementary School third-grader Muneca Araujo sipped chocolate milk after devouring a cereal bar at her desk. But she left her banana untouched.

“Bananas are yucky,” said Muneca, 8, as four other classmates in her cluster of desks peeled into the fruit.

The students ate sack breakfasts provided by the school while teacher Jennifer Traudt read the class a novel, pausing to ask comprehension and vocabulary questions.

Serving breakfast to all students in the classroom — instead of before school and only to some of the students — soon will be part of the norm for a group of local schools.

The Waco and Connally school districts are trying out the Breakfast in the Classroom initiative this year as a way to ensure all kids start the day with a balanced breakfast.

“When I’m hungry, I struggle through the morning on an empty stomach, so this is one way of making sure our students have some sort of meal before they settle into doing schoolwork,” South Waco Principal Jim Patton said. “Even kids who come late to school, they have a breakfast waiting on them when they get here.”

South Waco, North Waco, Dean Highland and Crestview elementaries, along with Alta Vista Montessori School, are testing different models of serving breakfast to the kids.

Connally’s primary and elementary campuses are trying the program before deciding whether to add it for the middle and high school.

Jeremy Everett, director of the nonprofit Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor University’s School of Social Work, said more than 80 percent of children across the state qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school but only 57 percent participate in the breakfast program.

The Texas Hunger Initiative has been working with 10 districts across the state, including Waco and Connally, to encourage and assist them in rolling out the Breakfast in the Classroom program.

“Right now, we know that a lot of our kids aren’t eating breakfast, or breakfast might consist of a bag of Hot Cheetos and a Big Red,” Everett said. “So we know that A, that’s not going to sustain them through to lunchtime, and B, that’s unhealthy for them.”

Low participation
All of the targeted districts have a student population in which at least 70 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch but have low participation in the breakfast program.

Waco ISD has a free, before-school universal breakfast program for all students, whether or not they qualify for free- or reduced meals.

But the district gets only 40 to 50 percent participation at breakfast, said food service manager Scott Anglesey.

One reason for the low participation is some children get to school late.

Patton said when he served as principal of North Waco Elementary, the front office stocked graham crackers and cereal bars for students who came late to make sure they had something to eat before diving into schoolwork.

Some children also may feel some stigma with eating a free breakfast meal before school and opt to avoid shame.

Students are quickly warming up to the new program. In Traudt’s class, Jacob Ramirez, 8, said he likes eating in the classroom better because it’s much quieter than the noisy cafeteria, while 9-year-old Ty’quedra Washington said the breakfast improves her concentration so she doesn’t fall asleep or get tired.

Yadira Talavera, 8, said she didn’t always get to eat breakfast in the cafeteria because it’s hectic getting ready for school at home.

She has a 7-year-old brother and a 4-year-old sister, plus a third sibling on the way. Sometimes, her mother gets kolaches for the family on the way to school.

“We’ve had a lot of different things (in the sack breakfasts),” Yadira said, naming yogurt, cereal bars and a hash brown mixture with eggs and bacon. “My favorite was the breakfast burritos because they have sausage in them.”

Budgeting breakfast
For the most part, the schools are able to expand breakfast to all students without eating into their budgets.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture pays school districts $1.51 per meal for each child who qualifies for free meal service, $1.21 for children under the reduced-meals program, and 27 cents for students who pay for their own meals.

Anglesey said costs $1.38 to prepare one breakfast meal, so as more children eat breakfast, a surplus is created from the free meal reimbursements that the districts use to pay for meals to nonqualifying students and offer healthier food options.

Still, the schools face some costs in packaging the breakfasts.

Also, Dairy MAX, a nonprofit group affiliated with the National Dairy Council, is giving grants to each participating school to help cover expenses of transporting food to the classrooms.

Eventually, the Texas Hunger Initiative hopes to push more districts across the state to move to the Breakfast in the Classroom model.

The nonprofit group also is looking at models for afternoon meals program that could be implemented, giving all students a chance to receive a third free meal during the school week.

“This exists to try to build healthier kids,” Everett said. “You need a healthy, educated workforce. If our kids aren’t eating, then they’re not going to be educated and they’re not going to be healthy, because they can’t remember what they learned (without proper nourishment).”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blueprint to End Hunger Launches Today

The Texas Food Bank Network, Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative and First Choice Power today released “Hunger by the Numbers: A Blueprint for Ending Hunger in Texas.” The report includes a hunger scorecard for each of the 254 counties of Texas, a state which ranks second in the nation for food insecurity. The report provides a road map with resources for funding and programs to fight at a local, statewide and national level.

 “This is the first time one report measures and describes the extent of hunger and its potential solutions in each of Texas’ counties,” said Barbara Anderson, executive director of the Texas Food Bank Network, a coalition of the 19 food banks in Texas.

The report comes on the heels of this morning’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that Texas has the second highest rate of hunger in the nation.

Hunger by the Numbers: A Blueprint for Ending Hunger in Texas incorporates the newest national data on hunger made available by Feeding America, the nation’s network of food banks, along with U.S. Census data and statewide data on usage of federal and state programs.

“As Texans read this report, they will learn some startling facts about the size of the hunger problem in their state, which currently ranks second worst in the nation when it comes to hunger,” said Jeremy Everett, executive director of the Texas Hunger Initiative. “They also may be surprised to learn the extent of the hunger problems in their own back yards.”

Hunger reaches every area of the state: 18 percent are food insecure in Harris County, home to the fourth largest city in the nation; 24 percent are food insecure in Hidalgo County, the gateway to Mexico; 16 percent are food insecure in Travis County, where state leaders meet to discuss how to combat these issues. Even Montgomery County, home to The Woodlands and some of the state’s most affluent zip codes, has a food insecurity rate of 15 percent, meaning one in seven residents face hunger.

Along with compiled hunger data county-by-county, the report lists the resources available in each community to address hunger. Those resources include: SNAP (formally food stamps), free and reduced breakfast and lunch in schools, WIC and other federal programs.

First Choice Power, a retail electric provider in Texas, sponsored the report as part of its Food FirstTM program, which was created to fight hunger in the communities it serves.

“Take a moment to look over this insightful report and ask what you can do to fight hunger in our own backyard,” said Brian Hayduk, president of First Choice Power. “We believe the greatest energy source in our state is its people.  And we are convinced that an informed community will be an engaged community.”

A copy of the blueprint is available here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blueprint to End Hunger Launches Tomorrow!

Tomorrow the Texas Hunger Initiative, in partnership with the Texas Food Bank Network and First Choice Power, will release "Hunger by the Numbers: A Blueprint for Ending Hunger in Texas,” a 508 page "report card" of sorts for hunger issues and statistics in all 254 Texas counties.  Check back tomorrow for more details.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Texas Hunger Initiative to be featured in PBS documentary

“Feeding Minds: Texas Takes on Hunger and Obesity”
A Texas PBS production
February 2012

Texas PBS stations have launched the Texas Feeding Minds Project - an awareness effort about childhood obesity and hunger.  Project components include online outreach efforts as well as an on air production – all with the aim of increasing awareness about these overlapping issues as well as providing positive solutions addressing these issues across the state.

The on air production, entitled Feeding Minds: Texas Takes on Hunger and Obesity is currently in development and will air on Texas PBS stations in February 2012.  It is made possible by a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.

Camille Miller, President/CEO of the Texas Health Institute, and Jeremy Everett, Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, are serving as both program advisors and co-hosts.  Their advisement has directed Texas PBS stations to topics and solutions that will both bring awareness to these overlapping issues as well as direct viewers to solutions that can be emulated in various communities across the state.

Seven Texas PBS stations are producing individual, stand-alone documentary packages that will be woven together with our hosts’ narration and select state-wide expert interviews.  These seven stations are:  Austin/KLRU, Corpus Christi/KEDT, Dallas/KERA, El Paso/KCOS, Houston/KUHT, Lubbock/KTXT and San Antonio/KLRN.  Amarillo/KACV is serving as the program coordinator/producer.  Program content will address the following topics:

  • Defining the overlapping issues of childhood obesity and hunger – how they co-exist and why we should care
  • What is happening at the state level on these issues
  • What is happening on a regional level on these issues (Rural and Urban Communities: Faith Based Community and Food Banks/Food Deserts)
  • What is happening on a community level on these issues (Schools, Restaurants, Grocery Stores and Community Gardens/Fresh Foods/Nutrition Education)
  • What can happen on an individual level on these issues (individual choices and accessing resources)

The specific air date in February 2012 will be determined in October 2011, once PBS spring programming schedules are shared with Texas PBS stations for planning purposes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Texas Hunger Initiative Summer Meals Tour

From July 25th to August 3rd, members of the the Texas Hunger Initiative visited Summer Meals feeding sites in 7 Texas communities.  (Austin, Dallas, Del Rio, McAllen, San Angelo, San Antonio, and Waco).  Each site had a THI summer VISTA associate that had been placed in the community for the summer to assist with outreach, implementation, and coordination of the program.  The purpose of the site visits was to obtain success stories, best practices, and practical advice from each of the organizations involved with the program.  Below are the results from the tour.


Sierra Ridge Apartments
  •  Average number of kids: 95
  • Average number of volunteers: 8-10
  • Site Info: Foundation Communities, CitySquare sponsored site, meals vended by Sunbeam Foods
  • Meal Served: Ham and Cheese Sandwich, yogurt, carrots, juice, milk

Persons Interviewed:
  • Marisela Montoya – Director of Education, Foundation Communities
  •  Megan Elkins – Learning Center Coordinator, Foundation Communties

What were some of the challenges you faced at your site?
Marisela: Some of the students have had a little trouble adjusting to some of the menu offered, getting used to some new tastes.
Megan: A lot of the meals came cold, which is fine, but a lot of the kids were opposed to eating cold chicken nuggets or a cold pork sandwich.  Once they got used to the concept they were receptive and ate the meals without question, but at the beginning of the summer it was a hurdle for us to cross.
How did you advertise your site?
Marisela: Most kids that come live in our community.  They just know that we’re here because we’ve been doing this for a while.  We post flyers and send home newsletters and give information to the local schools as well.
Megan: Most of the kids know about the site trough their school or through living on the property.  We’ve partnered heavily with the local schools for outreach.
How did kids get to your site?
Marisela: Since most kids live here on the property or close by in the community, they walk here.
What advice would you give to organizations interested in becoming a summer meals site?
Megan: We’re very fortunate in that we have a captive audience.  We have a summer program that goes throughout the day.  I would imagine that recruiting would be difficult if this were not the case.  I think that the best advice I can come up with is to be consistent with your program; how you distribute the meals, how you clean up, how you interact with the kids, and how you keep track of the number of meals served.  It also helps to have a good share policy so that students who chose not to eat a particular part of their meal can offer it to students who may want seconds.   Also, a lot of kids from low-income backgrounds tend not to be very active in the summer.  Having programs and activities at a site serves two purposes – it helps bring out hungry kids and it helps keep them active.

San Antonio
South San Filadelfia Baptist Church
  • Average number of kids: 30
  • Average number of volunteers: 2
  • Site Info: Meals provided by San Antonio Food Bank
  • Meal Served: Hot Dog, Orange, Pickle, Strawberry Pudding, Milk

Persons Interviewed:
  • Daniela Roblero – Texas Hunger Initiative Summer VISTA Associate
  • Tom Revilla  - Community Coordinator, South San Filadelpia Baptist Church

What were some of the challenges you faced at your site?
Tom: We had a few behavior problems initially, but a structured environment helped the kids calm down.
Daniela – Sometimes I don’t have enough volunteers for the amount of children that show up.  Some of the kids try to take additional meals home to give to their family members who also are hungry.  It can be a little awkward telling them “no.”  It’s also hard to predict how many kids will show up on a given day and sometimes the amount of food I have doesn’t match the number of kids who showed up.  If a few kids go without on a particular day I take them out for lunch afterwards.
How did you advertise your site?
Daniela: My volunteers and I do a lot of promotion.  We walk around the community meeting people, give out flyers, and post information at nearby churches and stores.
How did kids get to your site?
Daniela: I pick up some of them.  Some of them walk to church because they live close.  Some of the kids are brought here by their parents.
Tom: We had expected that a lot of kids from within the church would be participating in the program, but most of the kids coming are from the community.
What advice would you give to organizations interested in becoming a summer meals site?
Daniela: You have love people and learn to be patient.  The program requires a lot of patience.  At the end of the day I’m exhausted, but I feel good.  I know that I’m serving God by serving others.

Provident Heights Elementary School
  • Average number of kids: 100
  • Average number of volunteers: 0
  • Site Info: Meals provided by Waco Independent School District
  • Meal Served: Fried Chicken Sandwich, Broccoli, Carrots, Oranges, Graham Cracker Bears, Milk

Persons Interviewed:
  • Scott Anglesey – Food Service Manager, Waco Independent School District

What were some of the challenges you faced at your site?
Scott: There were really two big issues – communication and transportation.  It was difficult to ensure that everyone was fully informed about where the nearest site was or when meals were scheduled.  Many students who knew about the sites had trouble getting to the site nearest to their neighborhood.
How did you advertise your site?
Scott: We posted flyers and posters at schools around Waco and gave students information to take home.  The flyers were given to us by the Mclennan County Hunger Coalition.  We also partnered with Baylor University to have students walk the neighborhoods and raise awareness about the program.
How did kids get to your site?
Scott: Most kids walked to the sites with their parents.
What advice would you give to organizations interested in becoming a summer meals site?
Scott: Contact your school district as soon as possible to get a head start on all of the planning.  Having a plan ahead of time is essential to successfully implementing the program.

Del Rio
Del Rio High School
  • Average number of kids: 100
  • Average number of volunteers: 5-10
  • Site Info: Boys and Girls Club, Volunteers from First Baptist Del Rio, Meals Provided by San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District
  • Meal Served: Nachos, Ground Beef, Cheese Sauce, Corn, Salad, Milk

Persons Interviewed:
  • Andrea Huffman - Faith Formation and Community Development, First Baptist Church Del Rio

What were some of the challenges you faced at your site?
Andrea: There are a lot of different organizations helping out with the program and at times communication can be a challenge.  Figuring out transportation is difficult.  The bus system doesn’t run in the summer so many of the kids who need these meals can’t make it to the site.
How did you advertise your site?
Andrea: Most kids who are coming to eat know about the program because it’s attached to their daycare or day camp program.  The rest hear about it through word of mouth.
How did kids get to your site?
Andrea: Almost all of the kids are here participating in the other programs being offered.
What advice would you give to organizations interested in becoming a summer meals site?
Andrea: This is my first summer working with the program and it’s helped me realize how much the people of Del Rio care about the kids in this community.  Everyone wants to help and their help is needed, so intentional coordination between the organizations is extremely important.  There are a lot of needs to be met.
San Carlos Community Center
  • Average number of kids: 80-100
  • Average number of volunteers: 4
  • Site Info: Activities led by volunteers from several community organizations, Meals provided by Chapitas Food Service
  • Meal Served: Cheeseburger, Chips, Apple, Milk

Persons Interviewed:
  • Jessica Zapata – Volunteer
  • Laura Trevino – Director, Center for Housing and Urban Development, Texas A&M University

What were some of the challenges you faced at your site?
Jessica: Coming up with new creative and cheap activities for the kids to do has been challenging.
Laura: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “problem,” but we have had a lot more kids show up this summer than we anticipated. 
How did you advertise your site?
Jessica: Although we distributed flyers, most kids heard about the site through word of mouth.
How did kids get to your site?
Jessica: Almost all of the kids are dropped off by their parents.
What advice would you give to organizations interested in becoming a summer meals site?
Jessica: They have to have patience with kids and they have to have ideas to be able to keep the kids engaged and wanting to come back.  It’s a great feeling; helping feed kids and keeping them active.
Laura: Sites should find ways to incorporate energetic activities into the program so that the site is not just about feeding kids but helps promote healthy activities and is a service to parents.

The Stewpot
  • Average number of kids: 130
  • Average number of volunteers: 15-20
  • Site Info: children and youth summer program, sponsored by CitySquare, meals prepared in-house
  • Meal Served: beef burrito, cheese sauce, corn, pineapples, oranges, corn chips, juice

Persons Interviewed:
  • Suzanne Dwight – Children and Youth Director, The Stewpot
  • Sonia White - Director of Nurture Knowledge & Nutrition, CitySquare

What were some of the challenges you faced at your site?
Suzanne: A big challenge has been keeping up with paperwork and making sure that we’re filling everything out correctly.  We’ve also had a few problems here and there with some kids not wanting to eat the food offered.  Sometimes there is a cultural barrier and the food is unfamiliar to them.
Sonia: One of the major challenges of the summer meals program is the short turn around time.  Essentially the program only lasts around three months, but there is a lot of planning and debriefing that must take place in order to successfully implement the program.  If a problem comes up it must be addressed immediately because of the short length of the program.  Sometimes this can be an administrative challenge.
How did you advertise your site?
Suzanne: A lot of kids at our site hear about the program through our relationship with the local elementary school. The rest seem to hear about it through word of mouth.  A lot of kids know about us through “growing up” in the program.  We actually have some second-generation kids coming to our site.
Sonia: We’ve had the most success by using flyers or door hangers in the areas around the site, but by and large most kids hear about the sites through word of mouth.  The kids come, they enjoy it, and then they tell their friends about it.
How did kids get to your site?
Suzanne: Most kids get here by the church vans.  We pick them up at the local elementary school.  We have a close relationship with the school.  A few kids get dropped off by their parents and some take the bus.
What advice would you give to organizations interested in becoming a summer meals site?
Suzanne: Proper training is crucial.  Knowing where kids are and getting the word out is important.  Also, having regular activities and programs make it worthwhile for the kids to come out to a site.  Having a relationship with the local elementary school has been extremely beneficial for us as a way to help get the word out.
Sonia: I think that having a good menu with some variety is important along with getting feedback from the kids.  Programming at the site is also important.  It has been our experience that kids won’t come out for just the food.  Activities help engage the kids, make them more comfortable around adults, and ultimately keep them coming back to the sites.

San Angelo
Fort Concho
  • Average number of kids: 60
  • Average number of volunteers: 10
  • Site Info: Kids Eat! Site, Volunteers from Johnson Street Church of Christ and Rust Street Ministries, meals prepared in-house, self funded
  • Meal Served: Grilled Hot Dog, Chili, Cheese, Green Beans, Pineapple Cherry Cobbler, Salad, Juice

Persons Interviewed:
  • Carol Rigby-Hiebert – Organizer, Kids Eat!
  • Mary Herbert - Organizer, Kids Eat!

What were some of the challenges you faced at your site?
Mary: Last year when we started all of our sites we ran into the problem of convincing people that there was an actual need.  We had to cite numerous statistics and studies to get them on board.  We had great turn outs last year and people are more and more recognizing the need and value of the summer meals program as they see the number of kids showing up at our sites.
Carol: Regardless of how much advertising stuff you do, word of mouth is always the way kids find out about the program, so some of our new sites had somewhat slow starts, although they picked up quickly.  Keeping volunteers encouraged when things were a little slow initially was a challenge.
How did you advertise your site?
Carol: We sent flyers home with the kids at the end of school, we had digital bill boards, PSA’s on cable bills, we went on local tv shows, and advertised in the local paper.
How did kids get to your site?
Carol: Some of the older kids walk and bring younger siblings, a lot of parents drive their kids; the majority of the kids walk to the sites.
What advice would you give to organizations interested in becoming a summer meals site?
Mary: Working together is the biggest thing.  We found that it really didn’t matter what station of life you’re in, what denomination or political affiliation you’re with.  When the need was communicated people came out in droves to help.  The sharing of resources was extremely beneficial for the sites.
Carol: Take the leap of faith.  All of our sites were new last year and we had our doubts about kids showing up.  This year we’ve added more sites and have experienced first hand that if you do it long enough and are consistent the kids will show up.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Texas Hunger Initiative Joins Let’s Move Faith and Communities to Serve Summer Meals

(From the White House Blog):
As part of Let’s Move!, First Lady Michelle Obama has challenged community and faith leaders to combat hunger. One of her goals for Let’s Move Faith and Communities is to encourage these trusted leaders to start 1,000 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites where kids can gather for a healthy meal when school is out. As faith and community leaders know, however, getting meals to hungry children is much easier said than done. That’s why the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) joined Let’s Move Faith and Communities: to help folks serve meals to the one in four children in Texas who don’t get enough to eat every summer.

THI, a Baylor University project that organizes communities to end hunger, rose to the First Lady’s challenge to start SFSP sites. And the communities in Texas need THI’s help; Texas has the second highest food insecurity rate in the country. Through their partnership with the Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and local leaders, THI has increased meals served statewide by 2 million since last summer, the single largest increase in the US. Because of this partnership, Texas now serves more summer meals than any other state in the country.

THI began reaching out to local faith and community leaders in April, when it hosted more than 100 churches and organizations at a Summer Meals Summit sponsored by McLennan County Hunger Coalition and the Food Planning Task Force of McLennan County. The Summit revealed that many organizations were unaware that they can access free meals for low-income students. They also did not realize that they are in such close proximity to other organizations and churches willing to help. Because of the Summit, Amos Humphries, pastor of Park Lake Drive Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, is utilizing his church as an SFSP site for the first time. Humphries commented that participation in SFSP was a “no brainer, a great and simple way to get involved in the local community.”

Since the Summit, THI continues to work toward its vision of a food-secure Texas. THI launched its Summer Media Tour to promote SFSP last week. Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders joined Todd Staples, the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, to promote SFSP at the launch. We couldn’t agree more with Sanders:

Children should not have to worry about when or if they're going eat. That's why I partnered with Commissioner Staples and the Texas Department of Agriculture's Summer Nutrition Programs, because kids have enough challenges to overcome and hunger should not be one of them.
Marissa Duswalt, Truman Albright Fellow, Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Originally Posted On:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Deion Sanders Partners with Todd Staples to Help Alleviate Hunger in Texas Children

Sanders with the THI staff
Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has lent his support to Todd Staples, the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, to help promote the Summer Meals Feeding Program.  At Duncanville High School on July 6th, 2011 Sanders and Staples, along with Duncanville Mayor David Green and USDA Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig were all present to discuss the high importance of nutritional programs for needy children.  Currently Texas has the second highest food insecurity rate among children. Sanders commented, "Children should not have to worry about when or if they're going eat. That's why I partnered with Commissioner Staples and the Texas Department of Agriculture's Summer Nutrition Programs, because kids have enough challenges to overcome and hunger should not be one of them." In the video below Sanders and Staples discuss the importance of Summer Meals.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Breakfast in the Classroom in Abilene Texas

In the video above Abilene teachers, principals, and school staff comment on the success and effects of the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program.  BIC aims to take breakfast from school cafeterias and serve it in classrooms to ensure that every student starts the school day with a healthy meal.  Many students often miss out on breakfast because they arrive at school late or are afraid of the social stigma that accompanies eating breakfast in the school cafeteria.  According to the most recent data, only 56% of eligible Texas students participate in the free breakfast program.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Texas Hunger Initiative Summer Vistas

The Texas Hunger Initiative has acquired 15 VISTA associates who will begin their service immediately and serve through August 16th in 7 Texas communities (Del Rio, San Angelo, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, McAllen, and Waco).  The VISTAS primary responsibilities will be increasing participation in the summer meals feeding program through community organizing, outreach, and capacity building.  They will serve directly under churches or non-profit organizations including Daily Bread, Stewpot, CitySquare, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, and the Tom Green County Hunger Initiative.
Through the National Corporation of Community Service THI has been able to allocate close to $24,000 to the summer associate program. In addition a partnership with Share Our Strength has provided another $30,000 in mini-grants to local community partners as well as provided promotional banners, posters, and fliers for the Summer Meal sites. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jeremy Everett - Spirituality and Food Conference, University Baptist Church Austin, TX

Jeremy Everett, executive director for the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI), speaks on his personal encounters with poverty and hunger, the work of THI, the state of hunger in Texas, and the implications of Jesus' feeding of the 5,000 for Christians in poverty work.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Texas Hunger Initiative on KWTX

Jonathan Lewis, Summer Meals Specialists for the Texas Hunger Initiative, and Cliff Reese, WISD Child Nutrition Services Director, speaks on the importance of the Summer Meals program on the KWTX morning news:    Texas Hunger Initiative Interview

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Texas Hunger Initiative Presents $30,000 check to Houston ISD for its work on Breakfast in the Classroom

Jeremy Everett, Executive Director of THI and Bill Ludwig, Regional
Admin USDA present a check on behalf of Share Our Strength to Houston ISD

82% of Houston ISD students are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.  Prior to the implementation of the Breakfast in the Classroom program only 30% of HISD elementary school students were eating breakfast.  That number has risen to around 80% and even as high as 95% in some schools.  HISD middle schools have seen their participation rates double and even triple in some schools.  On May 12th the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) presented a $30,000 check on behalf of Share our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" campaign to help expand the Breakfast in the Classroom program into HISD High Schools.  THI executive director Jeremy Everett commented that HISD has been a "pioneer in Texas at a time when we really need school districts and families to advocate for hungry children."
       In the video below Brian Giles, senior food services administrator for HISD, comments on the successful implementation and effects of the Breakfast in the Classroom Program.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SON Ministries - a great model for faith based poverty work

Serving our Neighbor (SON) ministries is a faith based non-profit organization in Hilliard, Ohio.  They partner with local churches and businesses to help families transition out of poverty.  Along with connecting individuals and families to outside resources, they run a summer meals feeding program, community education classes, and offer tutoring and homework help in local schools.  For more information visit their facebook page.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Texas Senator Eddie Lucio Speaks on his hunger related bills at the Texas Food Policy Roundtable

Senator Lucio's has proposed a bill to the senate (which has passed and is awaiting the house) that aims to aid communities with schools that have 50% or more students that qualify for the free or reduced lunch program.  He has also proposed legislation to combat the fact that the cost of nutritious foods has skyrocketed while junk food remains relatively cheap.
The Texas Food Policy Roundtable (TFPRT) is a group of individuals and organizations who advocate for food policy that promotes food security in Texas.  For more information on TFPRT, including how to get involved, visit their website.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Breakfast in the Classroom at a school with 97% poverty

Dr. Maya Lagbara, principal of Harrell Budd Elementary School in Dallas Texas speaks on the positive effects of the Breakfast in the Classroom program at an advocacy meeting at the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB).  97% of the students at Dr. Lagbara's school qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. The NTFB aims to supplement the recent school staff and budget cuts by supplying schools with trained volunteers to assist in programs such as Breakfast in the Classroom.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Overview of the work of the Texas Hunger Initiative

Bill Ludwig, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, speaks on hunger issues in Texas and outlines the important work of the Texas Hunger Initiative.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Breakfast in the Classroom - Mart ISD

A student eats breakfast while
working on morning lessons
         86% of the students of Mart Middle school qualify for free or reduced school breakfast and lunch, according to superintendent Todd Gooden, and he says that the number of eligible students has been growing over the last few years.  In an effort to ensure that all students start their school day having eaten the most important meal of the day, Mart ISD implemented Breakfast in the Classroom two years ago.

Breakfast for the Day
Sausage Biscuits and Milk     
              During 2nd period a pre-selected student heads to the school cafeteria to pick up a tray of breakfast items.  The teacher in each classroom distributes the food and students eat during announcements and instruction time.  “The only major issue was clean up, but we’ve since worked out an efficient system,” said principal Tawnya Nail.  Students initially cleaned their desks with spray bottles but are now given handi-wipes (the spray bottles were often not used for their intended purpose).  Nail commented that Breakfast in the Classroom has had a great impact in Mart Middle School – “Kids are happier and can focus on academics because they aren’t distracted by a rumbling stomach.  Test scores have gone up.”
a student delivers breakfast to
her classroom
       The breakfast program has had a significant impact in Mart's High School, which is an open campus (students may go off school grounds for meals).  The stigma that surrounds eating breakfast at school (implying a lower social standing) is shrinking.  Many of the High School students are now even sticking around for on campus lunch.

Friday, March 25, 2011

JC Dwyer speaks on Texas Hunger issues

JC Dwyer, Director of Public Policy for the Texas Food Bank Network, shares his experiences and expertise on hunger and hunger related issues including the history of food stamps, role of policy makers, and government entitlement programs.

Part 2
Part 3

Map the Meal Gap

After a year of research, Feeding America has release its "Map the Meal Gap" interactive map. The map contains detailed statistics and analysis of every county in the United States.  Statistics include percentage of hungry individuals, average cost of a meal, and funds needed to close the meal gap.  The map and more detailed information can be found here.

Breakfast in the Classroom - Feeding hungry students the most important meal of the day

from Share our Strength

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Share Our Strength Partners with Texas Hunger Initiative

      Share our Strength, the group behind No Kid Hungry (you may have seen their PSA's on Food Network) has partnered with the Texas Hunger Initiative in order to tackle a Texas sized problem with childhood food insecurity.  1 in 4 Texas children are food insecure, that's more than 1.5 million kids.
    The partnership was announced in February in Dallas.  Representatives from the Texas Hunger Initiative along with Dine Out for No Kid Hungry partners (including CiCi's pizza and Raising Cane's chicken) traveled around the city in a "Hinges of Hope" tour and witnessed multiple ways the problem of hunger is being addressed.  The tour focused on the work of the Wilkinson Center which operates a food pantry and connects struggling families with relevant resources.  Individuals who were given assistance by the Wilkinson Center gave personal testimonies about the ways they had been helped, including job training and education and shared about the positive effects such endeavors have had on their lives and families.
     The Texas Hunger Initiative's partnership with the No Kid Hungry campaign will officially launch this fall.

McLennan County Hunger Summit - April 12th

From the press release:

Hunger Issues for Children Topic of April 12 Summit

            According to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Summer 2010 records McLennan County currently has more than 27,000 children eligible for the year-round free and reduced lunch program, but only about 3,000, or 11%, participate during the program in the summer when school is out of session. 
            A Hunger Summit aimed at bringing together area churches and community organizations to discuss issues of childhood hunger will be held 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. April 12 at the City of Waco Multipurpose Center, 1020 Elm Ave.

            The summit is a collaboration of the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, the Food Planning Task Force of McLennan County, and the Texas Hunger Initiative, housed in the Baylor School of Social Work.  City of Waco Mayor Jim Bush will speak at the event.
            “There is no reason for our children to go hungry during the summer,” said Jeremy Everett, THI director. “The resources are there if we can bring together the folks to host and distribute the food. Our goal is to eliminate childhood hunger this summer.”
            For more information, contact Danny Steis, communications specialist for Texas Hunger Initiative, at or by calling 254-710-7494.