By Rebecca Fiedler
Every six seconds, a child age 5 or younger dies from hunger somewhere around the world.
Tim Jarrell, senior pastor at Austin Avenue United Methodist Church, gave the statistic in a speech Wednesday at the Fast of Caring in downtown Waco.
Representatives of multiple charitable organizations around Waco congregated at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and skipped lunch for the Fast of Caring. The Fast of Caring is an event held annually in honor of World Food Day, its mission being to raise awareness of hunger issues across the globe.
The Fast of Caring provided the opportunity to donate what would have been spent on lunch to the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, which will give the funds received to the Talitha Koum Institute, Beheler said. Talitha Koum is an institute that partners with families in poverty by providing therapeutic nurturing to children.
“I tell you this not to depress you, but to let you know there are people around the world who see this and are trying to do something,” Jarrell said.
The city of Waco proclaimed Oct. 16, 2013, to be Fast of Caring World Food Day, said Mike Beheler, chairman of the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, who spoke at the event.
“I urge the people of Waco to join with the city council, the city staff and me in recognizing that hunger is a serious issue,” Beheler said. “World Food Day is a worldwide event which increases public awareness and understanding of the hunger problem as it exists in our community, our nation and the world.”
At the end of the event, Beheler presented a $1,000 check to the Talitha Koum Institute. The check comes from the Valero Energy Corp. and is given to the McLennan County Hunger Coalition to distribute. Susan Cowley, who attended to represent Talitha Koum, said the money will go toward nutritious meals Talitha Koum will provide for children.
The McLennan County Hunger Coalition is made up of multiple organizations. Beheler spoke on behalf of the coalition and said he encourages all of its members to commemorate World Food Day with the lunch fast.
“Individuals can celebrate this day by not doing lunch to experience the feelings of hunger,” he said. “This simple and powerful event helps people focus on their own blessings and the needs of others locally and globally.“
Kenneth Moerbe, co-founder of the McLennan County Hunger Coalition, said the speeches at the event were organized to bring attention to international, national, statewide and local hunger issues.
Jarrell spoke of a recent project he had brought to McLennan County to stop hunger in the community. In Parker County, Jarrell said, he founded a satellite branch of a larger organization called Kids Against Hunger, and he has brought a branch of that to Waco. Kids Against Hunger is an organization that creates and supplies supplemental food locally and around the world. The food supplements are a creation made of rice, soy, vitamin powder and veggie flakes; it’s packaged and sent to kids around the world, Jarrell said. One packet will feed six children for a full day.
“My goal is to gather groups of folks together and we use tables like this and we make a human assembly line and we package up food,” he said, pointing to tables in the room.
The system is driven by volunteers, Jarrell said.
Jarrell’s community packaged almost 2 million meals in Parker County. Jarrell said he plans to start packing in Waco, too. There will be packing for first time in Waco on Austin Avenue the Saturday before Thanksgiving, supported by volunteers from the community. It will include two shifts of up to 80 people, and Jarrell said he anticipates packaging 50,000 meals.
Christine Browder, the No Kid Hungry campaign manager at the Texas Hunger Initiative, spoke after Jarrell.
The No Kid Hungry campaign is a national campaign to end hunger, and the Texas campaign is housed in Waco, Browder said.
The campaign focuses on sustainability and being able to equip families and children to be healthy, Browder said. It especially focuses on school meals provided to children before and after school and during the summer, and many school meals have been added at these times because of the campaign’s efforts this year.
“Something we think about with children here in the States is the idea of malnourishment and hunger, but often we see that present itself as obesity and a lack of healthy food; that’s empty calories and things like that, as opposed to the really dire starvation you see in developing countries and third-world countries,” Browder said.
He said 1.9 million kids in Texas suffer from food insecurity, which is the lack of assurance of where a person’s next meal is coming from.
“We know that these models are working,” she said. “We know that these programs are sustainable; that they’re healthy; they’re empowering. But at the same time we are also very aware of how far we still have to go.”
Pat Brittain, a retired teacher and member of the Pack of Hope organization, also spoke on the importance of providing children with meals during times in addition to the school day.
“I’m probably not all that different from other teachers who didn’t even realize my kids could be starving; unless they came up and said ‘I’m hungry,’ and even then, it was only momentary problem and I would hand them some crackers or something,” Brittain said. “I‘m not really proud of that, but I’m working to fix it now and help kids who might be in the same situation, because I know firsthand that a kid who’s starving could care less about a vocabulary lesson I’m trying to teach.”
Brittain said people think of poverty being isolated to certain areas, but it’s everywhere.