Fighting hunger requires collaborative efforts

Jeremy Everett, founding director of Baylor University's Texas Hunger Initiative, led a workshop during the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting. (BGCT Newsroom Photo)

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WACO—Effective ministries to alleviate hunger demand collaboration, Jeremy Everett of Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative told a workshop at the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting.

“Knowledge, understanding, drive and development are better when it is done communally,” said Everett, founding director of the initiative.

The dynamics of any hunger-fighting program must be flexible, because for most people in the United States who experience hunger, it is episodic—not a permanent or chronic condition.

As a university-based program, the Texas Hunger Initiative grounds all its work in research. The institute’s research shows Texas has enough food for everyone to eat, but families continue to struggle with hunger. So, something must be wrong in the process of making food available to people, Everett noted.

Hunger not only affects a person’s health, but also finances, education and relationships, he noted.

Everett recounted the story of a boy who, after making progress in school because a mentor was helping him, began to misbehave again and not do well in class. When the mentor asked what happened, the boy said if he failed and misbehaved then he would be sent to summer school. At least in summer school, the boy said, he could eat once a day.

The fewer resources a family has, the more trade-offs they have to make, Everett said. When they must cut corners, they see groceries as a flexible budget item.

“Food will be one of the first options to go out. That way they will still have a car to get to work, and they will not get evicted,” Everett revealed.

One of six people in Texas struggles with hunger, Everett said. Among Texas children, one of four faces food insecurity.

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Good example

Everett pointed to the work of Mary Herbert and Carol Rigby-Hiebert in San Angelo as a good example of people finding effective ways to address hunger.

Not long after the Texas Hunger Initiative started in 2009, Herbert and Rigby-Hiebert approached Everett asking THI to establish a regional site in San Angelo.

Although Everett and his staff already had selected the locations across the state, Herbert and Rigby-Hiebert persisted. Members of Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo spent three weeks to research and establish the partnerships necessary to become a Texas Hunger Initiative site.

The first year the San Angelo site provided summer meals to students, Herbert and Rigby-Hiebert collaborated with others to serve 20,000 meals.

Collaboration is the key for communities to address hunger and the issues related to hunger, Everett stressed.

“THI is now seeing what churches can do to be involved,” Everett said. But it cannot be the work of the church alone, he added.

“We are dependent on each other,” he emphasized. Ministers, politicians and business people will have to work together.

“We all play a role,” he said.

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