Could you skip a meal a month to alleviate life-threatening hunger? Or, if you don’t think you can stand missing a meal, would you match the cost of one dinner to provide food for someone who otherwise might not eat all day?
If Texas Baptists would take either of these tiny steps, we could walk a long way together toward Christlike ministry to the people Jesus called “the least” in our state, across our nation and around the world.
Hunger dwells very near each of us. More than 3.1 million Texans are food-insecure, meaning they don’t know where they will get the groceries or money to supply their next meal, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Beyond that, almost 900,000 Texans suffer from outright hunger. They don’t receive enough nutrition to sustain healthy bodies.
Texas is home to the highest percentage of food-insecure and hungry families in the nation, the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission reports. Texas’ poverty rate is 25 percent higher than the national average, and impoverished people in Texas comprise almost 10 percent of the national total.
Other Texas hunger statistics:
• Almost one of every six Texans lives in poverty.
• Ten of the nation’s 30 poorest counties are in Texas.
• One in 10 Texas children under age 12 is hungry.
• Almost one-third of Texas children are hungry or at risk of hunger.
• One in four Texans along the Rio Grande is poor.
• The vast majority of Texas’ hungry are from working families. More than 80 percent of poor families with children and almost 60 percent of poor families and individuals without children include at least one adult who works.
• Hunger and poverty are racial issues. African-Americans and Hispanics are three times as likely to live in poverty as are their Anglo neighbors.
Of course, hunger does not confine itself to Texas. More than 36 million Americans—10 percent of the entire population—live in households that experience hunger or food insecurity. Of those, 13 million are children. No matter how you feel about their parents, can you blame the children for their poverty and hunger?
Worldwide, the situation is even worse. More than 1.4 billion of Earth’s inhabitants live on less than $1.25 per day, according to Bread for the World. One of every five people on the planet subsists on less than $1 per day, the Christian Life Commission adds. Nearly half the population ekes out an existence on less than $2 per day.
Texas Baptists have determined to do something about hunger. As part of our Texas Hope 2010 endeavor to spread the gospel and alleviate suffering, we’re trying to raise $2 million through the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger, beginning this fall and running through the end of next year. Allocations will include $700,000 for worldwide hunger and developement ministries this year, $700,000 for those ministries next year, $250,000 to fight urban and rural poverty, $150,000 for Texas-Mexico border ministries, $100,000 for disaster relief and $100,000 for Christian Women’s and Christian Men’s Job Corps.
These are terrific, but the goal is too low. Texas Baptists actually can count 1,532,735 resident members. Suppose all of us would skip a not-chinchy-but-not-extravagant meal per month at $10 and contribute it to our world hunger offering. In one year, we could raise $183,928,200 to fight hunger. (For the faint of heart, halve the participants and the price of lunch; you’re still at $38,318,375.)
Just imagine what we could do to save and improve lives. We cannot comprehend the impact on time and eternity that would derive from saving many of their souls.
Marv Knox is editor of the Baptist Standard. Visit his blog at www.baptiststandard.com .