WACO—The Baylor Center for Family & Community Ministries has partnered with the Baptist General Convention of Texas Christian Life Commission to create the Texas Hunger Initiative, a project to alleviate hunger across the state by strengthening church food ministries.
“With some organization and creativity, hunger in Texas can be alleviated, and I think we’ll be well on our way to that within six years,” said Jeremy Everett, who will direct the effort.
The project comes alongside hunger ministries related to the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger, which currently provides $475,000 for 95 Texas hunger ministries. The initiative will build capacity of existing ministries that are addressing hunger in the state. Initially, the project will identify regional leaders in the state and create networks, meeting the varied needs of each region.
“I appreciate that this project begins by assessing strengths and then allows us to build upon those strengths with a model that incorporates cultural and environmental sensitivity,” Everett said.
“It’s like a new harvest to have the Baylor School of Social Work as a partner to boost and nourish the network of Texas Hunger Offering ministries,” said Suzii Paynter, director of the BGCT Christian Life Commission. “Great people are doing God’s work caring for the ‘least of these,’ and this project will give them tools, support and blessing for ever greater things, especially as we focus on Texas Hope 2010.”
Everett has spent the past five years in San Antonio’s West Side, a historically low-income area where he lived with his wife, Amy, and their two children, Lucas, 4, and Sam, 2.
Employed by Baptist Child & Family Services, Everett helped start Guadalupe Street Coffee, a café with computers and wireless Internet service for youth who lacked computer access. As a community developer in West Side, Everett worked to bring together members of the city council, business owners, and students and administrators from the local high school.
The Texas Hunger Initiative will give Everett opportunities to use his community development skills on a broader scale. Initially, the initiative will focus on El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley and Bexar and McLennan counties, seeking to develop and implement strategies to alleviate hunger through policy, education, community organizing and community development.
“We have chosen to focus on these areas first because there are existing programs and relationships,” Everett said. “We can build upon the trust that is already there and grow successful partnerships.”
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Everett will spend the first months in his new role getting to know people who address the needs of the hungry every day and involving social work graduate students in the initiative.
“The process we’ll put together for the hunger initiative is the same one I used in San Antonio, and both use social work principles,” he said. “Students interested in community development and community organizing will graduate from the School of Social Work with direct practice experience gained through this initiative.”
Baylor’s School of Social Work began a concentration in community development this past year, and students already have been effective in a specific community-building effort to alleviate hunger. The fall 2008 practice class researched, organized, chartered and began a Campus Kitchen.
In addition, the Center for Family & Community Ministries has researched and written original curriculum titled “Understanding Poverty,” now being tested in congregations before final publication.
“We have found that churches are nearly begging for resources to help them address community needs,” said Jon Singletary, assistant professor at Baylor’s School of Social Work. “We will continue to develop a curriculum on poverty to present to churches and civic groups as a way to introduce and prepare them to engage impoverished families in their communities.”
The initial three-year funding of $100,000 annually for the Texas Hunger Initiative will come from grants, gifts and BGCT sources. Everett will be located at the Center for Family & Community Ministries in the social work school.
“Feeding hungry people and developing communities so that families can afford to feed themselves—that’s what Jesus called us to do,” said Diana Garland, dean of the School of Social Work. “I am thrilled we will be working with the Christian Life Commission of the BGCT to help congregations bring an end to hunger and the poverty that creates hunger in their communities.”