Sunday, November 13, 2011

Feed the Hungry

"Give your food to the hungry and care for the homeless. Then your light will shine in the dark; your darkest our will be like the noonday sun."
Isaiah 58:10 (Contemporary English Version)

When it comes to the subject of hunger and a city like Dallas, there are people who actually believe that it cannot possibly exist. Why? Dallas is too rich! We have great philanthropic institutions. We have churches. We have generous individuals who regardless of income, volunteer and give to any number of charities, large and small. There surely can't be hunger in Dallas and especially not hungry children.

The difficulty that some people have in believing this is the reason why Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's 'No Kid Hungry' Summit was so very important.

The summit, held on November 9, at the Dallas Farmers Market, focused on the issue of childhood hunger and it's the available resources and the programs that can help us solve it. Bill Ludwig of  regional administrator of the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture says that, more than $15 billion is available to address hunger in Texas and yet our state appropriates on 60% of these funds. 'We have the tools and the resources to end hunger in Dallas and in Texas', he said.

""Child hunger is a serious issue in Dallas and surrounding communities, but the good news is that we have the resources to solve it," Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson said. "The group of talented and strategic partners at this hunger summit is dedicated and will help ensure our children are fed three meals a day, every day.""

"An important announcement made during the hunger summit was the creation of a Dallas-Area Food Planning Association, which is currently underway as part of the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign. This group will consist of educators, elected officials, corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, community leaders and local residents who will take a close look at where child hunger needs are greatest in the area, and will then work to implement programs there."

""Kids who face hunger fall behind in virtually every way, and the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign seeks to connect children at risk of hunger to programs that can provide regular, nutritious meals," Jeremy Everett, director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, said. "The focus of the campaign during its first year is to connect more eligible low-income children to federally funded School Breakfast and Summer Meals Programs.""

"This meeting of the minds touched on a wide range of topics related to child hunger in North Texas, including alarming new statistics, Dallas-area "food deserts," the importance of fighting hunger in the faith community, and solutions currently being put in place through the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign. This statewide public-private partnership was launched last month by the Texas Hunger Initiative, a project of the Baylor University School of Social Work, and Share Our Strength, the leading national child anti-hunger organization."

""Dallas is already moving the needle on child hunger through the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, said. "We have the necessary programs funded and in place to make certain that every child in Dallas receives the food they need to excel in and out of the classroom. By working together, we can guarantee easy access to these programs for those most in need--our children at risk of hunger.""

I certainly hope Dallas does make this commitment. Solutions are not as complex as people think: making certain that all eligible children and their families are enrolled in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - food stamps), or the free/reduced lunch program, or that schools serve breakfast or breakfast in the classroom.

There are even solutions that are broader in their economic and societal implications. At the summit, for instance, Friends of the Dallas Farmers Market announced resolution to an issue on which the DFM and CitySquare have been working for nearly a year: the Dallas Farmers Market will begin accepting the Lone Star Card (SNAP) as a form of payment, around the spring of 2012. This is an economic benefit as well as one which brings down a significant barrier to the problem of food deserts (neighborhoods in which there is little or no access to groceries or nutriticious foods) a prticular problem in communities in southern Dallas.

And then there is this...

Obeying the command to feed the hungry isn't just a matter of charity, it should be the ethos of a just society. It a powerful, creative, community building endeavor that ministers to the overall health and well being of neighborhods, demonstrating the contributive possibilities of everyone who lives there. Taking this dictum seriously can enhance the dignity and worth of everyone - hungry or not.

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