Partner with the Plan: FPTF has Accomplished its Goal

August 13, 2013

The Food Planning Task Force of McLennan County was a coalition of organizations, churches, and community members who, over the past three years, met together to for the purpose of creating a strategic plan for ending hunger in McLennan County. Our task force’s work groups have each collected data, come up with best practices, and have created particular strategies to address hunger issues in our community. The compilation of the data from each work group has resulted in our final product – the strategic plan. Our hope is that this strategic plan will serve as a resource for the City of Waco, non-profit organizations, churches, foundations and anti-hunger advocates. Several of these strategies are already being implemented locally but could always use more support and creativity! The Texas Hunger Initiative–Waco Regional Office as well as the McLennan County Hunger Coalition are currently working towards connecting people to these projects and would love you partnership! If you want to stay connected to anti-hunger initiatives and/or are interested in volunteer opportunities, the THI Regional Office would be happy to get you plugged in to your area of interest (email us at THIwaco@gmail.com).

As our task group comes to a close, we would like to thank everyone involved for their dedication and hard work. It has been quite the journey but we are ecstatic about how this strategic plan will serve our city. We are excited to see which of these strategies the community sees as most pressing, and we wait eagerly for the city rally together around these issues.

*Please take time to look over the strategic plan and the respective work group strategies and pass it on to anyone who would be interested in this type of work! is the plan is located under the resources tab on this website, as well as on ActLocallyWaco.org and the McLennan County Hunger Coalition website.

Again, if you are interested in teaming up with any of our partners, please click here for a list of partners with links to their pages or email THIwaco@gmail.com and we will connect you!

End Hunger 2015


West, Texas Volunteer Efforts

April 18, 2013

Good afternoon all!  It’s incredible to see the city of Waco come together to serve our brothers and sisters from West.  Our community’s response has been inspiring.

In order to most effectively and efficiently continue to serve the victims from West, please join and like the Facebook group West, TX Volunteer Efforts: https://www.facebook.com/groups/186936951456721/?fref=ts

This group has been established so that volunteers can continually update the community on the most pressing needs at Blair’s Cove Apartments.

This apartment complex is currently housing 50+ residents from the explosion in West and is taking food, water, blankets, toiletries, and cardboard boxes as donations.

As we hear more from the owners of the apartments about the most pressing needs, this Facebook group will be updated.  Therefore, please check it regularly as we want to ensure that we are best serving our brothers and sisters in West.

A quick update – the need for blood donations has been met!  Radio stations have been reporting lines that go outside the doors of donation sites, even with the rain.  Kudos to you all!  The greatest current need is volunteers who can help box and organize all the supplies that have been donated at Blair’s Apartment.

Also, the Blair’s Cove Apartment staff asks us to spread the word that they have extra rooms available for displaced West residents.  We know there are more people in need of shelter; we just need to get the word out that the Blair’s Cove Apartment has more room and is serving as a sanctuary.

Again, thanks again for your collaboration, care and prayers.

We are proud of our city.

–Amber Jekot, Food Planning Task Force

 

 


Meet the Task Force’s Two Newest Members

April 12, 2013

By: Amber Jekot, Food Planning Task Force Organizer

Join me in Welcoming Kelsey Scherer and Amy Sattergren to the Food Planning Task Force!

Meet Kelsey Scherer, the Child Hunger Outreach Specialist as well as the FPTF’s Children’s Nutrition Work Group leader. Kelsey, a native of Chicago, graduated May 2011 from American University in Washington, DC with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies.  Her concentration in community development in sub-Saharan Africa and minor in French allowed her to spend eight months studying grassroots community development in Cameroon and Mali.  During college Kelsey interned for International Justice Mission, a human rights agency dedicated to bringing rescue to victims of violent oppression worldwide through a collaborative casework model.  Desiring to learn more about serving her community through agriculture, Kelsey made the leap southward to join us in Waco, Texas to serve as the Produce Intern for World Hunger Relief, Inc.

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Kelsey shares: “I came to the farm with the intention to tinker around in the dirt, to learn about vegetables, to grow in relationship with God and others, and delve deeply into interests that might illuminate my path forward as I consider how to best serve my community, wherever it may be.”

Though drawn initially by the World Hunger Relief Farm, Kelsey has fallen in love with Waco, beckoned by the fertile soil of beauty and potential in this city and its community.

Meet Amy Sattergren, the Food Planning Task Force’s new vista.  Amy, a native of Cincinnati, studied International Studies at Baylor University, minoring in both Spanish and Religion.  Throughout college she served as a Young Life leader for high school students in Waco where she was able to see first hand the effects of poverty.  Amy saw hunger’s impact on the students’ education, nutrition, and future.  Amy’s experience with hunger with students in congruence with her education on international development illustrated to her the frustrating complexity of poverty.  Amy’s experience has led her to believe that collaborative, strategic, and holistic approaches rooted in love are key in combating poverty.  Inspired by her faith, Amy believes she has a call from Psalm 82:3-4 to “maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.”

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Amy shared: “Hunger is a tangible piece of injustice that we have the responsibility and capability to eliminate.”

Last summer, Amy helped with Summer Meals outreach as well as volunteered at one of the sites. Amy was encouraged by the enthusiasm of the Waco community to work together to serve children food during the summer and is excited about using her experience with the Summer Meals Program to address the barriers that keep our children from accessing food during the summer.

The Task Force is honored to have both Kelsey and Amy serve alongside us as we work to ensure that all community members have access to three nutritious meals a day, seven days a week.


HMIS: Data Streamlined for Evidence-Based Practice

April 5, 2013

By: Amber Jekot, Food Planning Task Force Organizer

The Annual Homeless Assessment Report is a report presented to Congress to illustrate the magnitude and nature of homelessness in the United States.  This report helps determine where federal funds are most needed.  In order to assemble this data, the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) is predominantly utilized (Donovan, 2013). 

By encouraging more pantries in the Waco area to utilize the HMIS database, we are able to play our part as a community in painting an accurate picture of the problem of homelessness in America.  This is especially important during the current challenging financial situation, as convincing Congress that federal programs need continued support has proven difficult.

On a local level, by utilizing HMIS, individual non-profits will have access to Waco’s data and be able to use this nationally recognized data for grant writing purposes to bring more resources to our most food insecure community members.  As the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has historically supported many hunger initiatives in Waco, we want to support them in the streamlining of homelessness data.

The city of Waco is providing an HMIS portal for Hank Perot with the Capital Area Food Bank that will provide homeless demographic data that we did not previously have.  This portal will only display demographic info, not specific information about clients in order to protect client confidentially.  HMIS does not only provide more accurate data for our area to better address poverty solutions in McLennan County.  Though this system is different than Charity Tracker, the time and effort that will go into learning the new system will be greatly rewarded.

The HMIS system could benefit McLennan County by:

  • Providing access to client demographic information
  • Screening for federal benefits
  • Illustrating the gaps of services as well as duplication of services – thus encouraging overall supplemental food efficiency
  • Providing a client ID card capable of being used at all the Waco pantries, allowing organizations to see when an individual attends a pantry and what other pantries they have attended
    • This information can be utilized to develop poverty planning solutions
    • Delivering accurate data for grant writing purposes – specifically HUD grants and other federal and state assistance

The Food Planning Task Force, as a coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to action-orientated food planning and strategizing, looks forward to seeing how HMIS positively impacts McLennan County’s food insecure population.  We value the collection of precise data so that we can encourage and implement evidence-based practice in our community.  Thanks to Bob Gager and the Emergency and Supplemental Food Work Group for all their hard work and dedication to providing three nutritious meals, seven times a week, to ALL individuals in McLennan County.

According to Bob Gager with Shepherd’s Heart, we can make assumptions about what we are doing, we can do informal surveys and eventually we might know what we are doing to a certain extent, but are we bridging the gap?  Are we hearing from clients? We need info coming from bottom up rather than top down.

References:

Donovan, S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, (2013). The homelessness data exchange (hdx). Retrieved from website: http://www.hudhdx.info/


Join us for the Long Haul…

March 22, 2013

By: Amber Jekot, Food Planning Task Force Organizer

The final editing for our strategic plan is complete – This is so exciting!  So much valuable information and hard work is represented in this document, and now are able to share the gift of our hard work to other service organizations and individuals in Waco.  The voices of those we serve and of the work groups’ participants are intertwining to put our collective dream for ending hunger in Waco on paper.  I wanted to take this opportunity to again thank each of you for the conversations you have and share with your clients, for the compiling of information, for the time you have given this coalition, and for your investment in the Waco community. The Food Planning Task Force’s partnerships with the Hunger Coalition and Texas Hunger Initiative have proven to be assets in this process as well.  The strategic plan will be posted on the Task Force blog.  Bound copies will also be made for the Hunger Coalition and other organizations/community members who want to partner with us in the implementation phase.

But our work isn’t done and we need your help!  Join us this afternoon at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame as we discuss next steps.  We will be discussing how to incorporate both the community’s voice collected through our community input boards as well as our work group strategies to begin addressing the needs of our community’s food insecure population.  We invite you to come share your opinions and join us in putting our strategic plan and strategies into action.  Your voice is important.

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We are here for the long haul and we hope that you are too.  The Beehive Collective, a collective who utilizes collaborative artwork to energize grassroots movements, created the art piece above to be used as an educational and organizing tool.  The picture’s depiction of such a diverse crowd of “community members” represents our hope for the Food Planning Task Force, where the voice and songs of all members are taken into account. Like the art piece illustrates, there is always another seat available at our table.

We look forward to seeing you at 2:00 pm at the Texas Ranger Museum.

 


The Farmers Market Nutrition Program

February 22, 2013

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By: Amber Jekot, Food Planning Task Force Organizer

The Texas Hunger Initiative and Bethel Erickson-Bruce with the Waco Downtown Farmers Market have been in conversation with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) about the possibility of bringing the Farmers Market Nutrition Program to the city of Waco. 

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides vouchers to WIC eligible women and children for fruits and veggies that can be redeemed at a TDA approved Farmers Market. Vouchers of a $20 value are provided as an addendum to the actual amount of WIC money allotted per client.  These vouches can help encourage healthy consumption for Texas’ women and children.  TDA would partner with a local non-profit called a contracting entity and a Farmers Market Association to implement the FMNP.

We believe this program would be an asset for the Waco community.  Fresh produce helps meet the nutritional needs of children during their most crucial period of brain development – the first 1000 days of their life.  Proper nutrition also sets the stage for better education outcomes for our children.  This program is also an effective way to encourage small businesses/small farmers and generates more funds to our local economy – one of the Food Planning Task Force’s work group strategies. 

In Tarrant County, Fort Worth, the Farmers Market Association made $53,000 for only 9 produce distributions. The farmers shared that they often made more money selling to WIC clinics for 2 ½ hours than they did selling at the local farmers market all weekend.  Our hope is to provide Waco’s farmers with this same opportunity.

Although this is not something THI and the Waco Downtown Farmers Market are able to pursue at this point, we think this program would be a huge asset to WIC recipients, farmers, and the local economy.  Our hope is that the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program will flourish in Waco in the near future.

Special thanks to Jeremy Everett, Eric Weeden, Kathy Krey, Shamethia Webb, Doug McDurham, and Bethel Erickson-Bruce for their efforts to bring such a promising program to Waco, Texas.

 


Doritos and Pepsi? Or Local Produce? What Do Food Insecure People Really Want to Eat?

February 12, 2013

By: Amber Jekot, Food Planning Task Force Organizer

The Food Planning Task Force of McLennan County is currently finalizing its strategic plan for alleviating hunger in Waco and McLennan County.  We are a well-intentioned group that recognizes that we don’t have all of the answers, so in order to ensure that the wide-ranging voices of the community are being heard, we’ve begun using Community Input Boards to collect feedback from community members and those who are experiencing food insecurity.

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I had the unique opportunity to take these boards to Waco’s Project Homeless Connect on January 31st and ask attendees their advice on how the Waco community could better serve them.

Project Homeless Connect is an annual event that allows individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness and/or poverty to come to one location and receive a variety of local services.  Haircuts, dental care, veteran’s services, and federal benefits outreach were among the many services offered this year.  The feedback the Food Planning Task Force received from participants was invaluable.

Since the prevailing image of SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) seems to be a grocery cart spilling over with sodas, sugary processed foods, candy, and Doritos, I was elated to collect anecdotal evidence that highlights that those who receive federal assistance and who are homeless actually do desire to eat healthy foods.

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I was floored by the responses.  Every attendee I spoke with about the food they received from pantries and other aid programs shared that they wanted more vegetables and fresh food. One participant remarked: “We want real vegetables, not those canned ones.”

Another woman approached me and self-identified as morbidly obese, explaining that she knew she needed to eat better but was constrained by her financial situation. She explained: “I have two children, a bum leg, and all I can afford are processed foods and carbs.” 

Research shows that obesity is a growing trend among America’s poor. It would appear that much of the food that’s available to low-income people contribute to this phenomenon. 

What I gathered from conversations I had with participants at Project Homeless Connect was that obesity was a result of the high cost of food not simply a person’s desire to consume unhealthy food.

Relatedly, the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market recently installed an EBT machine that accepts SNAP dollars. Many scoffed at the idea that SNAP recipients would want fresh fruit and vegetables. Yet, naysayers may be surprised to learn that there are SNAP recipients who actually let their SNAP dollars roll over in order to save up for fresh, local produce.

Attendees of Project Homeless Connect were excited about the opportunity to use SNAP at the farmer’s market as well, and I was pleased to have heard so many incredible stories that debunked the stereotype of Waco’s food insecure.