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.