Baylor hosts conference to fight hunger, poverty

By Abigail Loop

The Texas Hunger Initiative and the United States Department of Agriculture Southwest Regional Office will host a conference at Baylor intended to bring new knowledge and ideas about overcoming food insecurity and poverty.

The conference is a two-day event that will take place in the Cashion Academic Center. Check-in begins at 7 a.m. today and the event will last from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. It will continue from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.

Titled “Together at the Table: Hunger Summit at Baylor University,” the conference will feature seven keynote speakers and 40 breakout sessions, such as Childhood Hunger and Research and Data, to encourage attendees to exchange ideas and look at a variety of topics related to ending hunger.

More than 70 speakers and panelists from across the country will be leading these sessions.

“This is an opportunity to bring anti-hunger and poverty organizations to share knowledge on how to eliminate food insecurities across Texas and the rest of the country,” said Charis Dietz, director of communications for Texas Hunger Initiative, an anti-hunger organization within Baylor’s School of Social Work. “Our purpose is to provide evidence based research for these leaders who attend and it’s a great opportunity to exchange ideas.”

Among the keynote speakers are Melissa Rogers, special assistant to the president of the United States and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Audrey Rowe, administrator of Food And Nutrition Service for the USDA.

Other speakers include David Weaver, CEO of South Plains Food Bank, Angela Collier, senior manager with the Walmart Foundation, and Joel Berg, executive director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Attendees will listen to keynote speakers in Cashion at the conference, and then go to the SUB to participate in the workshops.

Dietz said she hopes people will walk away from the conference with a new outlook on hunger insecurities after attending these sessions and listening to speakers.

“I hope people leave feeling inspired,” Dietz said. “Sometimes it can be overwhelming when you learn everything but we want to give as much access to people as we can. There are so many low-income families in the country.”

Jeremy Everett, director of Texas Hunger Initiative, said with the many different organizations attending the conference, this is great way to see what has been working and what can still be learned in ending hunger.

“Federal and state organizations, nonprofit organizations, people in the community, school districts, congregations, the academic sector and corporations such as Walmart and Kellogg’s will make up who will be attending,” Everett said. “It’s an opportunity to being all these leaders together. It’s a serious thing, how we address growing poverty.”

According to the USDA, one in six families live in households that are food insecure. Everett said he thinks the conference will act as a stepping-stone to providing more awareness and help towards those affected by poverty.

“This will absolutely help us move forward,” Everett said. “We’re using informed engagement and evidence-based models to replicate around the country to solve hunger.”

While this is the third time the conference has occurred on campus, the response to this year’s summit has been quick.

“We’ve done this since 2009 and this is the third time we do it at Baylor,” Dietz said. “We’re very excited and we already have more than 400 attendees who are registered and so our registration is closed already. I think next year we might need a bigger venue.”