FORT WORTH – In many places across the state, there is a darkness that most people overlook. It’s clouding the eyes of hurting children, their stares serving as silent cries for help. Full Story »

An important part of any substance abuse ministry in a church is the connections to the community and other organizations that are involved in prevention and education events.  One of the partners of our state substance abuse ministry is Texans Standing Tall.  This group addresses prevention and education issues relating to adolescents and the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.  Texans Standing Tall hosts regional forums throughout the state for the purpose equipping and providing information and resources to community leaders and groups.   The forums are an excellent way to network and get relevant information about what the current needs are in your community.

2010 Dates and Locations are:

March 26-San Antonio
Education Service Center, Region 20
1314 Hines Avenue; San Antonio, TX 78208

April 22-Midland
Region 18 Building
2811 La Force Blvd.; Midland, TX 79711

Date TBA- Austin
Seton Administration Office Auditorium, 1st Floor
1345 Philomena Street; Austin, TX 78723

May 14-Amarillo
Education Service Center, Region 16
5800 Bell Street; Amarillo, TX 79109-6230

Date TBA- Dallas
College Student Forum

For more information about Texans Standing Tall or the Regional Forums, just check out their web page at www.texansstandingtall.org.

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Food Policy Roundtable

On January 20, the CLC, along with members of a small steering committee, convened the first ever meeting of the Texas Food Policy Roundtable.  This new coalition is one way the CLC is committed to fighting hunger in Texas and support the goal of the Texas Hunger Initiative of ending hunger in Texas by 2015. To reach this lofty, but obtainable goal, work must be done not only on the local level through THI’s Food Planning Associations, but also on a statewide level by looking at how good public policy can help  make Texas food secure.

The meeting was a success with over forty individuals representing diverse organizations, many of whom had not previously met, in attendance. The group heard a recap of workshops conducted at the Hunger Summit, heard from expert advocates about the recent history of food and hunger policy in Texas, and learned current ways they can advocate for hungry citizens on the state and federal level.  In the coming months the roundtable work toward crafting policy priorities that support advocacy efforts in four categories: children’s summer feeding programs, nutrition and obesity, local and sustainable food and SNAP (food stamp) enrolment and eligibility.

The CLC will coordinate communication to and among roundtable members and in the coming weeks will be launching an email newsletter and website dedicated to hunger policy.

Hispanic Education Leadership Day

On Tuesday, February 2, 2010, the Christian Life Commission was happy to host members of the Hispanic Education Initiative Council, officers from Convención, members of the education committee of Convención, Texas Baptists Associate Executive Director, Steve Vernon, members of Texas Baptist Men and WMU leadership, as well as members of the BGCT Executive Board, for a day of advocacy and learning about education issues in Texas. The event was held at the state Capitol and included a time for participants to meet with their state legislators’ office about relevant interim charges.

The day’s speakers included Jan Lindsey from the Texas Education Agency, who spoke on dropout prevention in the state, and Sylvia Acevedo, renowned public speaker and founder of La Feria para Aprender (a bilingual parent outreach fair held in various cities across the state), who discussed Texas demographics both present and future and what it means for education and the workforce in Texas. Bill Pounds from the educational software group AZTEC gave a demonstration of the company’s workforce training software program, and Luis Figueroa, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), spoke about the DREAM Act, the Census and  federal and state immigration issue. Lester Meriwether, president of Literacy Connexus, gave a presentation on the Literacy Texas coalition as well. In small groups, participants discussed what they had learned from the day and how they can implement that knowledge into their church lives and communities. Thank you to the participants; it was indeed a blessed day!

Public Policy at the CLC Annual Conference

On March 22 & 23 the CLC Annual Conference will be held at Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, TX. The theme this year is Neither Need Nor Greed: Christian Stewardship of Money and Resources. Several speakers will touch on topics relating to public policy including predatory business practices like payday lending, the lottery and gambling. Stephen Reeves of the CLC and consultant Rob Kohler will make a presentation explaining why current law and past history demonstrate that the idea of limited casino gambling expansion in Texas is flawed and would lead to uncontrolled and unregulated Native American Casinos.

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There is a legend of a wanderer who rounded a corner to see a large giant asleep on its side. Fearing that the giant would stir and threaten, the wanderer hid in nearby brush keeping an eye on the sleeping beast. After several hours the giant was gone – but not because it stirred and rose in gargantuan power. Curiously the wanderer watched as the extremities of the imposing beast shimmered and gradually dissolved into small, energetic dwarves – they eagerly exited out of the large form and headed out into the forests and byways. Then the arms one by one similarly dissolved into a host of duty bound sprites and so on until the giant was transformed into hundreds of energetic souls each slipping away to an appointed task. From the hiding place, the wanderer could see, there was no beast at all. The fearful form was transformed by the purposeful tasks of dedicated people one by one.

This is how I see hunger. Its shadowy, large, painful figure is blocking the road of hope. But this is also how I have seen the transformation of its beastliness….I see the hope of shimmering transformation through the simple energy of individuals willing to do their part.  Like Eric Cooper, Director of the San Antonio Food bank telling of the search for his missing father. Surprised to find him hungry and on the street, he was changed forever when taking his dad to a nearby Denny’s the waitress ignored the elder man and asked Eric if he wanted a table for one. “No, no,” he blurted out, “this is my dad.”…. “No hungry person is invisible to me anymore,” Eric said. This is a picture of the Texas Hunger Initiative, a host of small acts that dismantle a giant. Bill Ludwig, USDA  is sure  that “No child should go to bed hungry in this country, especially in Texas.” And he means it – he passed out map after map showing where hungry children still have a gap for nutrition. “We are looking for matchmakers who can fill the gap for just a few children.” It is not much –not much effort, not much time, not much diversion from a busy life. But packing a backpack lunch or spreading sandwiches that are loaded on a delivery truck can dismantle a hunger giant.

As simple as 1,2,3….for summer 2010 a giant can be dispelled for thousands of Texas children.  Every community has summer feeding sites but many of the families nearby, don’t know where to go, or when.

#1 Would you be willing to join others on May 22th to walk and pray through neighborhoods to pass out flyers that show parents and children where to get meals all summer?  The beast would lose a leg thanks to you.

#2 would you be a willing volunteer to serve meals or help kids at a site that needs a few more hands on deck? This is as simple as a weekly shift, or even providing playtime games for kids that gather.  Literally, it’s child’s play.

#3 Would you be willing to dismantle a beast of hunger by joining with a mission church, apartment complex or school to serve summer meals where none are available now? Many communities need a new summer site to fill the gap for hungry children, especially in neighborhoods that have recently grown or have new families moving in.

You are not alone. The Texas Hunger Initiative is marshalling an army of willing hands.   Jeremy Everett, Director of the THI remarked that he looks forward to answering his young children in a few years.  He wants to hear them ask incredulously, “You mean there were people in Texas who were not fed? I cannot even imagine that!” It is my hope that he can answer…  “Yes, you see there used to be a massive hunger beast in the road, but little by little it dissolved away. And if you look right over here, you’ll see the ordinary people who equipped with nothing but compassionate Christian love made it go away.”

Be ye doers of the word and the relevance of the gospel will dismantle a dark and lingering beast.

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By JC Dwyer, Policy Director, Texas Food Bank Network

In your local communities, you may come across this question often. The short answer is Yes, we can! All you need to do is build the will.

Here are six shorthand arguments you may find useful in talking about our 2015 goal:

  1. We have the tools… We produce enough food in America to feed everyone – the problem is getting food to the right people, at the right time, and at the right price. This is a logistical problem, not a resource issue, and so is solvable.
  2. A measureable problem is a solvable problem… For the first time, the Texas Hunger Initiative is creating an index of how many meals will be needed statewide to achieve food security. Once we have that number, we will have a concrete goal that will be within our reach –an equation that has a solution!
  3. The stars are aligned… For the first time in recent memory, hunger has become a priority among our elected and appointed leaders. The Texas Hunger Initiative has the support of USDA, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and other influential partners statewide. They all want to solve this problem!
  4. An ounce of prevention… Hunger costs local communities millions each year in lost worker productivity, student achievement and health care costs. Solving hunger will be much cheaper in the long run than letting it continue. We can also add more than a billion dollars worth of economic development for local communities by signing up eligible participants for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  5. Eating the Elephant… Ending hunger is like eating an elephant – one piece at a time! While your local efforts may seem small compared with the overall problem, there are people like you across Texas taking small bites every day, and together we have the power to end hunger for good.
  6. Hunger is Unacceptable… Most Texans, regardless of politics or party, agree that in a state as great as Texas, and in a nation as great as America, hunger is unacceptable. Just like social problems of the past, we can end hunger if you can help us turn this sentiment into action!

Get involved by emailing the Texas Hunger Initiative at texashungerinitiative@baylor.edu or calling 254-710-3704.  You can also go to www.texashunger.org for more info.

How YOUR Church Can Help
Our colleagues at Texas Impact have created a wonderful toolkit for folks interested in helping with the summer feeding program. “Feeding Texas Kids with the Summer Food Service Program” gives you step-by-step information on the many different ways you can get involved with SFSP as a faith community.  Get an order form.

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By Jeremy Everett, Director, Texas Hunger Initiative

Recently, I sat down with a student who recounted a childhood riddled with hunger.  The student’s family would frequently punish her by refusing to feed her for days at a time.  One summer during high school, the student was given one bag of Ramen noodles for each day of the summer.  Unfortunately, these stories are becoming too common in our state.

Texas ranks first in childhood hunger in the United States.  We rank second in food security as a state, i.e., 1.4 million Texans are food insecure, which means they are unsure where they will get their next meal.  Last summer only 9 percent of eligible children participated in the state’s Summer Meals Program, which provides up to two meals a day for food-insecure children in Texas.  Half of eligible families do not receive SNAP funds, which would give families supplemental dollars to purchase fresh food.

Fortunately, organizations and individuals are coming together with the goal of Food Security in Texas by 2015.  That means that everyone in Texas will have access to three meals a day seven days a week.  The CLC and the Texas Hunger Initiative, along with a number of partners such as the USDA, Texas Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services Commission, Texas Impact, and the Texas Food Bank Network, held a Texas at the Table Hunger Summit at Baylor University in November with many Texas Baptists Hunger Advocates to launch the mission.  This is the first time as a state we have all come together to work alongside the hungry in our communities to make food security a reality.

12Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.”  13But He (Jesus) said to them, “You give them something to eat!” (Luke 9-12-13, NASB)

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SAN ANTONIO – Baptist Child & Family Services has been requested to provide medical care for children living at the Haiti Children’s Rescue Mission in Petionville, Haiti. Full Story »