Texas improves on childhood hunger

Take a bow, Texas. You deserve applause on the issue of childhood hunger.

Three years ago, Texas ranked second worst in the nation on this critical issue. Today, we’ve climbed to 11th. We still have much, much work to do, but that is great progress.

Jeremy Everett, director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, announced the new ranking at the Southwest Regional Hunger Summit at Baylor University Wednesday, Oct. 17.

The first summit was held three years ago. The Christian Life Commission launched THI and there is a direct correlation between creation of THI and the improvement in Texas. THI has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Agriculture, statewide non-profits, food banks, and local groups to organize the response to hunger.

“When gathered here (three years ago) it seemed like we were in a deserted place, and we were,” Everett said at this week’s summit. “But we have seen things transformed.”

Many people are not aware that the USDA administers the federal government’s various food and nutrition programs. It does this because SNAP (Food Stamps), Summer Meals, and other programs are directly connected to and benefit the nation’s agriculture culture and industry. There are two public benefits of these efforts — providing for people in need and keeping our agricultural infrastructure sound.

As a result, it was USDA resources that have been critical in the Texas turnaround. “We were leaving billions of dollars on the table because we did not have a coordinated system,” Everett said. In other words, federal dollars approved for various programs were not being accessed. All of the groups mentioned above, led by THI, have created processes to improve access to those funds.

It’s not only the poorest in Texas who are benefiting. It is creating jobs in grocery stores and providing needed cash for store owners. Everett calls it “trickle up economics.”

“You invest in the poorest people in your community,” and they “have to immediately turn around and spend it” because their needs are so great, Everett told me. Those dollars are spent in communities, and it is estimated that one-in-10 working class grocery jobs are attributable to government programs, he said.

So, we celebrate. Hunger is being reduced, jobs are being created, and our communities are being improved. Now, we shoot for continuing to climb the latter.

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