During the Monday afternoon workshop session of the 2017 Texas Baptists Annual meeting, Jeremy Everett, senior director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, shared a compelling message on the need for Christians to unite against the rampant issue of hunger in Texas, the United States and across the world.
Everett works to educate and equip individuals with practical strategies to end hunger for those who are in need within their own communities. He opened the workshop by asking those in attendance about their personal experience with hunger ministry. From across the room, people from around Texas shared about food pantries, backpack ministries and individual experiences with providing food to those in need.
“Why are people hungry?” Everett asked. The reasons range, but a few examples were given, including poverty, job loss, results of bad decisions or homelessness. The reasons in hunger differentiate, but the outcome is the same. People are without one of the most basic of need - food.
“Hunger in America is largely episodic,” Everett said. This means that the majority of people who experience hunger in America do not experience it chronically, rather they experience it for repeated intermittent intervals. Most commonly, this occurs at the end of each month when families have used all their money to pay rent or buy medication, and no longer have money to buy food.
While there are some programs in place to aid those who suffer from hunger, the need is still great. The goal of the Texas Hunger Initiative is to conduct research and create solutions for the church to come alongside federal hunger aid programs to effectively eliminate hunger.
“The first step,” Everett explained, “is learning who does what and where they are doing it. The goal is to know what resources are being used, what are not and how to eliminate wasting resources.”
Then, the Texas Hunger Initiative reaches out to communities and rallies people to support their cause. Everyone from churches to the school board are contacted in hopes of coming together to fight against hunger.
Everett shared a solution which has been proven effective in San Angelo, Texas.
When beginning the movement to end hunger in San Angelo, it was observed that many children were not taking advantage of the free breakfast at their schools. The students could not get to school early enough because of their bus schedule. Additionally, children felt embarrassed to get their free breakfast because it would label them as poor to their peers.
The solution was to move breakfast to start at the beginning of class. This eliminated the embarrassment because the entire class ate together, and the children who could not get to school early because of their bus schedule still arrived in time to eat.
This was one example of the many solutions the Texas Hunger Initiative discovered to actively fight against those in need of food.
In closing, Everett shared, “We have to end the idea that hunger and poverty are are acceptable socioeconomic conditions. The only way we can possibly end hunger is together.”