Hunger programs partner to feed Waco’s children

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WACO—The largest food sponsor in Texas is partnering with the Texas Hunger Initiative, based out of Baylor University’s School of Social Work, to provide free meals to children and teenagers in Waco.

jeremy everett thi425Jeremy Everett is director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, at Baylor’s School of Social Work.Waco became the beneficiary of 17 after-school meal sites recently, thanks to coordination between City Square’s Food on the Move  program and the Texas Hunger Initiative, launched by the Baylor University School of Social Work in cooperation with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. One site is located at Good Samaritan Missionary Baptist Church.

Food on the Move combats the challenges of childhood hunger by providing free meals to eligible children in either its summer meals program or after-school meals program. Last summer, Food on the Move served more than 1 million meals to nearly 20,000 children and youth in low-income neighborhoods in Dallas, Houston and Austin.

Food on the Move provides after-school meals to children who qualify for the school district’s free- or reduced-lunch programs. The after-school meals program serves an average of 3,300 meals per day to children in Dallas, Austin and now Waco, where 89 percent of students in the Waco school district qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Summer feeding plans

Although plans have not yet been finalized for the summer meals program in Waco, Food on the Move seeks to provide after-school and summer feeding locations in the city said Renee Caldwell, senior manager at City Square.

“We are positioned to stay here in Waco year-round,” she said.

Twelve Oaks Catering in Dallas prepares and transports the after-school meals to the Waco locations. Meals typically include a sandwich or a wrap and cold fruit.

“They prepare (the meals) every day,” Caldwell said. “We don’t get it from Timbuktu and get it shipped in. They fulfill lots in the Dallas area. We really want Waco to have quality meals.”

For several years, City Square remained in contact with the Texas Hunger Initiative about the partnership, but the Waco-based organization was not in a position to partner until 2014, Caldwell said.

food shelves citysquare425Last summer, Food on the Move served more than 1 million meals to nearly 20,000 children and youth in low-income neighborhoods in Dallas, Houston and Austin.In 2013, The Texas Hunger Initiative received a two-year, $2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation to fund research on summer child nutrition programs. The grant also allowed the organization to hire 12 child nutrition outreach specialists, who work to help promote childhood hunger programs, in its regional offices across the state.

Kelsey Scherer, the Waco-based child nutrition outreach specialist, worked closely with the grant and said it was also meant to increase collaboration with other like-minded nonprofit organizations like City Square.

City Square “was really the best option we saw to us in terms of getting after school meals to children right away, beginning this winter,” Scherer said.

The grant allows the Texas Hunger Initiative to be creative in the combat against childhood hunger in the state, she explained.

Increased opportunities

“That funding doesn’t pay for food,” Scherer said. “It doesn’t actually set up the program, but it has allowed us some increased opportunities to create and try some different solutions, some compelling options we haven’t done in the past.”

Waco has few food sponsors, at least compared to the 107 sponsors in Dallas that provide similar services as City Square, Caldwell said.

Food on the Move tries to find different outreach partners, like the Texas Hunger Initiative, each year. Since the two organizations have the same goal—to feed underprivileged children—it has been a successful partnership already, Caldwell noted.

Scherer “can’t do it all by herself, and we can’t do it all by ourselves,” she said. “Things have been so successful in Waco these past few months, so they would have buy-in and be able to do a lot of the legwork and have the community be engaged. We do the food, yes, but there are so many other pieces that have to be formed.”

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