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.

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