National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week kicks off in Waco

A group of Waco residents gather Monday evening at the Harrison Senior Center to take part in Bingo Night during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week kicked off Sunday, and the week is full of local activities put on by various groups in the Waco community, starting with a presentation at Church Under the Bridge and ending with the 11th annual Central Texas Turkey Trot.

“The goal is to give people the chance to learn,” said Eric Pritt, chairman of the Hunger Coalition’s National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week planning committee. “Hunger and homelessness are huge issues in our nation, but they’re also huge issues in our own community. We want people who come to our events to become more knowledgeable about the issues in our community, what is going on to combat those issues and how they can get involved. If we can do those three things, we’ll meet our goal.”

According to Act Locally Waco, the awareness week is in its sixth year in Waco and aims to bring awareness to poverty, food insecurity and homelessness on the local, state and national levels. The week started with a special kickoff presentation at Church Under the Bridge followed by the Heart of Texas Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty (CROP) Walk, proceeds of which went to Caritas of Waco and Church World Service to help end hunger.

“CROP Walk gives Caritas a chance to remind the community about the extent of poverty and food insecurity in our area and offers individuals an opportunity to help address these great needs,” said Buddy Edwards, executive director of Caritas of Waco. “We appreciate being included in the CROP Walk and for the funds that come to us through the efforts of dedicated walkers.”

Bingo Night took place Monday evening at the Harrison Senior Center. According to the flier for the event, accepted forms of admission included donations of things such as jackets, socks, toiletries and arts and crafts supplies for the Salvation Army and The Cove. The event was a mix of fun and learning about hunger and homelessness in McLennan County.

“I think this week is extremely important because it highlights so many great anti-hunger programs and organizations,” said Katie Cook, editor at Seeds of Hope Publishers. “I think if people know how many of their neighbors suffer from these things, they will want to do something to change that. I’m delighted that we have such a variety of events this week, because this will give people creative and practical ways to respond.”

The week is filled with more events designed to raise awareness about hunger and homelessness in McLennan County. At 7 p.m. tonight, there will be a panel and movie night at the Hippodrome Theatre with a viewing of “Hungry in the West End,” a documentary about hunger among senior citizens throughout the United States.

“We’d love to see the Hippodrome packed out for our documentary screening and panel discussion,” Pritt said. “I think students in particular would enjoy the agency meet and greet on Thursday because the Community Garden is so close to campus.”

A care package drive will take place on Wednesday followed by the Fall Festival in the Campus Community Garden on Thursday and the Food for Families Food Drive on Friday. The week will be topped off with the 11th Annual Central Texas Turkey Trot 5K and 10K race on Saturday at Brazos Park East.

The Food for Families Food Drive is an annual project for the Boy Scouts of America, H-E-B Grocery Company and KWTX-TV that takes place the Friday before Thanksgiving. Non-perishable food items such as canned vegetables, pasta, cereals and peanut butter will be collected from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. According to the Caritas of Waco website, this is the largest one-day food drive in Texas.

There will also be a meet and greet from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursday at the Campus Kitchen Community Garden on Ninth Street and James Avenue for information about the hunger and homelessness agency. At this meet and greet, prospective volunteers can meet the people working with Meals on Wheels, The Campus Kitchen at Baylor University and the McLennan County Hunger Coalition in order to learn how to get involved.

“I’m just excited to give people the chance to learn about issues that are so prevalent in our city,” Pritt said. “I don’t think people realize the extent to which hunger and homelessness affect so many people in Waco. “

Waco residents can learn more about events through the Facebook event for the week, called National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week-McLennan County, and by following the McLennan County Hunger Coalition on Facebook and Twitter.

“The thought of people coming to an event and leaving with more knowledge about hunger and homelessness in our own neighborhoods is extremely exciting to me,” Pritt said.