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By Amy Heard
For some people in Waco, food is not an easy thing to find.
The United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service defines food insecurity as a reduction in the quality, availability or desirability of food or a disruption in eating patterns and reduced food intake.
According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, Texas has a food insecurity rate of 17.8 percent. This is 1.2 percent higher than the national food insecurity rate of 16.6 percent.
In McLennan County, 18.9 percent of people are food insecure. This translates to 43,120 people who are unsure from where their next meal will come.
For some of the 43,000 food insecure people in McLennan County, relief comes in the form of a hot meal from the Waco Salvation Army.
The man behind the meals, Stanley Goode, known to his friends as “Red,” knows firsthand what it’s like to fall behind — he was homeless for six years before becoming the food and shelter coordinator for Waco Salvation Army.
“This happened about going on four years ago, maybe a little longer, I was homeless. I had basically hit rock bottom. I was on the streets using drugs, drinking, the whole nine yards. I didn’t want help from my family,” Goode said.
Goode’s past is what makes him good at his job, Amanda Allen, project manager for the Baylor Interdisciplinary Poverty Initiative, said.
“He knows how easily your life can change and move you from food secure to food insecure. His past naturally yields him respect from the people that come in,” Allen said. “He immediately knows who’s using and who legitimately needs a meal. No one pulls anything past him, because he’s been in their shoes.”
Luckily for Goode, the story did not end there. Goode came to the Waco Salvation Army for food and would occasionally stay after dinner to help clean the shelter up. Something about Goode caught the attention of the food and shelter coordinator at the time.
“He said it was something he saw and he said it didn’t look like I belonged on the streets. That was his words,” Goode said. “One thing led to another and I became his assistant, and when he left I took over his job. That’s basically how I wound up here.”
When Goode was homeless, drugs were his top priority, he said. Since he has become food and shelter coordinator, however, food has become the center of his life.
“I see that it helps a lot of people,” Goode said. “We feed people that otherwise, some of them, wouldn’t be eating, for one reason or another.”
Allen was first introduced to Goode when she was an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) working with Campus Kitchens.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program formed specifically to fight poverty in America.
“He’s always smiling, always cracking jokes, and is always optimistic about what he’ll create with the food that’s delivered,” Allen said.
Salvation Army receives food from area restaurants such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, in addition to food from the dining halls at Baylor.
The Texas Hunger Coalition organized some of these relationships, while Salvation Army set others up, Goode said.
Goode is equipped to serve 200 people each night. The homeless are no longer the main consumers of the food Goode provides, he said.
“With the economy the way it is—I mean it’s really sad — we see a lot of families, elderly people, and it’s not so much that they’re homeless. They just can’t make ends meet. So this kind of bridges the gap for a lot of people,” Goode said.
Goode’s role reaches beyond his official title at Salvation Army — he’s helping change the way students think and society works, Allen said.
“While direct service is in no way the answer to a deep societal issues such as homelessness or hunger, students who go on a food pickups usually have conversations with Red about what life is like on the streets and may better understand the complexity of the issue because of those conversations,” Allen said. “This may in turn encourage students to engage the issue through their discipline of study or vocation after graduation. And that is where societal change happens.”