PBS to air film on Texas Hunger Initative, partners

Baylor’s School of Social Work Texas Hunger Initiative recently received $230,000 in support after partnering with Share Our Strength, a national non-profit organization, to fight childhood hunger in Texas. Photo illustration by Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor
Baylor School of Social Work's Texas Hunger Initiative received a $230,000 support gift in 2011 after partnering with Share Our Strength, a national non-profit organization, to fight childhood hunger in Texas.
Photo illustration by Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Amanda Thomas

Texas is the second-hungriest state in the nation, with 4.2 million people at risk of experiencing hunger. At 8 p.m. today, PBS will air “Feeding the Minds: Texas Takes On Hunger and Obesity,” a documentary featuring Baylor School of Social Work’s Texas Hunger Initiative. The documentary will discuss the issue of hunger in Texas by highlighting the efforts of the Texas Hunger Initiative and its partners.

One of the topics discussed in the documentary is childhood obesity specifically caused by hunger. Jeremy Everett, director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, said the correlation can be found in children that are from food desert areas. Food desert areas are places where people do not have immediate access to healthy foods and cannot afford healthy food, making only junk food accessible.

“Food desert kids are physically obese, however, malnourished,” Everett said.

The documentary shows footage from seven Texas PBS stations, which produced individual documentary packages. Everett and Camille Miller, president of the Texas Health Institute, will narrate the documentary.

The footage shows what the Texas Hunger Initiative is doing to solve these hunger problems, such as working with community and government leaders. The film will also answer what is happening at the state level, the regional level and the individual level to fight hunger and obesity.

“We have been talking about [a documentary] for several years,” Everett said. “I am excited; it elevates the voices of people from Waco and [those] who have been working hard.”

Everett started the Texas Hunger Initiative three years ago. Its mission is to end hunger through policy, education, community organization and community development.

In it’s website, the Texas Hunger Initiative that it believes that by addressing hunger from the policy level and from the grassroots level, coordinating services and resources across the state, the state of Texas can bring security to its citizens.

Everett said Texas has enough money and food to feed its people, but the established programs that help fight hunger need to become organized. Everett said there is money set aside by the government to help fight hunger, but it is not being used as it should be.

“There is a lot of money to address the problem, but we [established hunger prevention programs] have not done a good job to utilize it,” Everett said.

Texas Hunger Initiative works to use this money by working with other hunger prevention organizations and the government. The initiative works with the United States Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Agriculture, the Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Food Bank Network and local community members involved in the food system to establish Food Planning Associations across the state. Food Planning Associations are associations of organizations and individuals committed to making their communities food secure.

“We are working to bring the voice of those living in hunger to the FPAs and working to connect the FPAs with the Food Policy Roundtable in order to help policies reflect the reality of hunger in the local communities,” (the Texas Hunger Initiative website said).

The Texas Food Policy Roundtable is a group of Texas leaders who joined to develop, coordinate and improve the implementation of food policy.

Kasey Ashenfelter, who started working with Texas Hunger Initiative as a field director six months ago and is a student at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, puts these plans to action by developing individual Food Planning Associations in communities across Texas.

He works with these communities by discussing how placing Food Planning Associations in communities will help fight hunger within communities.

“I am expected to spread the word by talking to the communities,” Ashenfelter said. “People just don’t realize that there is not one blanket plan to solve hunger.”

Everett said he hopes this documentary will inform people of the hunger issues facing Texas and what people can do to help.

Everett said he thinks once the hunger problem is solved, poverty in general will be easier to tackle. “Hunger is the harshest form of poverty,” Everett said. “This is an issue we can address. By learning to address hunger, we can take on other poverty issues.”