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The way to stamp out Texas hunger
December 5, 2009

The Texas Hunger Initiative, an interesting group working out of Baylor University, hopes to end hunger in Texas by 2015.

Written by Herber Taylor, The Galveston County Daily News


The Texas Hunger Initiative, an interesting group working out of Baylor University, hopes to end hunger in Texas by 2015.

The initiative is a project of Texas Baptists — the folks who used to be known as the Baptist General Convention of Texas — and the School of Social Work’s Center for Family and Community Ministries at Baylor.

The group’s top priority is to increase the number of children in food programs next summer.

The group contends that Texas has the nation’s highest rate of “food insecurity” among children. “Food insecurity” simply means not knowing where the next meal is coming from. According to the group’s figures, 22 percent of the Texans who are younger than 18 aren’t sure.

The group’s recommendations for ending hunger mirror those of social-service organizations in Galveston County.

For years, The Jesse Tree, a faith-based organization that operates countywide, has been insisting that Galveston County simply fails to collect $40 million in food stamps each year.

Imagine the economic impact of a business that put $40 million a year into the local economy through local grocery stores. The dollars are appropriated by the federal government, allocated to the state of Texas and offered through the Department of Health and Human Services to those who qualify based on income, disability or other circumstances.

Obviously, $40 million in uncollected benefits suggests there might be some barriers. The process is complicated. It requires paperwork and appointments. Sometimes, there are language barriers. Sometimes, social stigmas keep people — particularly the elderly — from applying.

At a time when the U.S. government estimates 96 billion pounds of food goes to waste in this country every year, thousands of qualified Galveston County residents can’t get over the barriers that keep them from receiving food stamps.

The folks at the Texas Hunger Initiative recommend that people be urged to qualify for even small amounts of help. The reason: A person who qualifies for a few dollars of food stamps — the average among senior citizens is $67 a month — almost certainly qualifies for some other kind of help.

It’s the same approach organizations such as The Jesse Tree have been advocating for years.

Eliminating hunger in Galveston County will require broad enrollment in these programs. It will require an improved transportation network to keep up with the appointments. It will require more extensive help to deliver help to those who are homebound.

It will, in other words, require a concerted effort of those who want to do good: members of churches, charities and civic organizations. But the first step is getting people enrolled.

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