By Jeremy K. Everett

The first time I met Dan Trevino, Pastor of Harlandale Baptist Church in San Antonio, he told me a story of two young children he had found dumpster diving at their church on a Saturday morning.  Dan and his sons had come to the church early to fix breakfast for the men in the congregation.  The two frightened boys were trying desperately to get away when they saw Dan drive up.  Dan called to the boys and they confessed that they were looking for food.  They told Dan that they rarely had food at their house, so they typically go without meals at nights and on weekends when they are out of school.

The two boys participate in the free breakfast and lunch program at their schools,  a program developed during the Great Depression to feed the nation’s children so they would be fit enough to join the military during World War II.  Dan took the boys inside and fed them until they could no longer eat.  Then, in addition to their food pantry and community garden, Harlandale Baptist Church decided to join the growing ranks of faith-based communities participating in the summer feeding program.  They simply could not stand the thought of these children going hungry over the summer when school was not in session.

Three million children participate in the free breakfast and lunch programs in Texas schools during the academic year, but only 78,000 of that number participate in summer feeding programs.  So where do the others eat during the summer months?  Currently, the partnerships between the USDA, Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services provide funding for all food purchased for summer feeding programs in the state.  Many faith-based communities, school districts, and nonprofits are beginning to apply for funding from this federal program to feed children that would otherwise not have access to food.

The Christian Life Commission, Texas Hunger Initiative, and Texas Impact entered into a partnership to do a two-year study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to see what steps can be taken by faith-based communities to increase summer feeding programs around the state.  To learn how your congregation can get involved with Texas summer feeding programs, go to the Texas Impact Website or call your regional food bank to see if your church can become a feeding center for the summer.

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By Jeremy K. Everett

I remember my first theology course in seminary.  The professor passed around a picture of a starving child in Africa.  The young child was probably about 4 years old, the age of my oldest son now.  He was living in a virtual dust bowl with a thatched hut just behind him.  There were flies circling his head and resting on his eyes and mouth as if they too were parched in the sun-soaked desert.  Not far from the child sat a vulture seemingly just waiting for its next meal.  As the picture went around the classroom we became silent.  We were yoked together by a sadness that felt like thick fog.  Then our professor took the photo, looked slowly around the room and asked, “Where is God in this situation?”

I have not seen the photograph since that day but it has left an indelible mark on my mind.  Extreme poverty moves even the most hardened souls.  A child going without food does not sit right with us.  Our professor used this photograph to begin a dialogue about our being the hands and feet of Jesus in our world.  Today, Texas has the highest rate of hungry children in the United States.  Hunger is defined by the 2007 Hunger Almanac produced by Feeding America to be the “uneasy or painful sensation caused by lack of food, the recurrent or involuntary lack of access to food.”  More than 1 million Texans (1.3 million) experience this daily and 14.8% of Texans are hungry or food insecure; only Mississippi and New Mexico have higher rates in the nation.  Many of the 3 million children in Texas who participate in the free lunch program go without a meal on the weekends when schools are closed.

Recently the Christian Life Commission (CLC) and the Baylor University School of Social Work partnered to address the problem of hunger in Texas by creating the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI).

It is a capacity-building project within the School’s Center for Family and Community Ministries and a partner of the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ CLC that seeks to develop and implement strategies to alleviate hunger through policy, education, community organizing, and community development.

THI seeks to ensure Texas becomes food secure by 2015.  Food security is defined by the 2007 Hunger Almanac to mean “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active healthy life.”  To accomplish this goal, THI will convene stakeholders from federal, state, and local government departments and from non-governmental organizations, churches, and local providers to develop a plan for efficient use and delivery of our current resources to feed hungry individuals and families.

The policies, food, and financial resources are already in place for Texas to achieve food security.  We have allowed our distribution system to operate inefficiently, however, wasting precious, limited resources that could alleviate the hunger pangs of so many children and adults around our state.  Now, as a people of faith, it is our time to do something about hunger by uniting to make Texas food secure by 2015.  And may Jesus say to us:

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (NRSV, Matthew 25:34-36)

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