Editorial: Texas must fight hunger all year
04:00 PM CST on Monday, November 23, 2009
While millions of Texas households prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with a hearty family meal, millions of their fellow Texans aren't sure when or how they'll get their next meal.
"Texans should be shocked that a state as prosperous as Texas is doing so poorly," says the state's agriculture commissioner, Republican Todd Staples.
According to federal statistics released last week, 16.3 percent of Texas households lack regular access to adequate nutrition or face hunger nightly. The percentage of so-called "food insecure" households in Texas is more than 4 points higher than the national average of 12.2 percent, ranking Texas ahead of only Mississippi. In these households, people regularly skip meals, eat cheaper and less nutritious foods, depend on government aid like food stamps or seek help from food pantries.
The recession can be blamed for only part of Texas' misery; it rated an abysmal 15.2 percent of "food insecure" households a decade ago, when its economy was booming. Now, says Jan Pruitt, executive director of the North Texas Food Bank, member agencies are seeing about 36 percent more new food recipients and distributing 50 percent more food each week.
The food bank readily accepts contributions in food and money all year, but Pruitt says eradicating hunger also requires such comprehensive strategies as making sure the needy, especially those with children, receive food stamps and other assistance.
Texans can confront hunger in small and large ways. A few hopeful signs emerged at a hunger summit in Waco last week. Led by the Texas Hunger Initiative, a coalition of federal, state and local agencies agreed to campaign to make sure Texas schoolchildren don't go hungry during the summer when subsidized breakfasts and lunches are less accessible. Churches, youth organizations and school districts will be asked next month to help get food to the 2.5 million school-age children eligible for summer feeding programs. Likewise, Staples will issue a similar anti-hunger challenge to mayors across Texas.
Hunger has been with us forever and will stay with us until enough people insist that it will not continue. It's good to hear more voices shouting this message.
People don't choose to be hungry, which is why prosperous Texans shouldn't ignore others' suffering when the holiday season ends. It's honorable to volunteer at food banks or to write a check to provide food for the needy, but eventually Texans must come to grips with the reality that this state's dismal record on combating hunger is getting worse.
Fighting Texas hunger
•Donate food and cash to the North Texas Food Bank or its member agencies. For contribution details, go to www.ntfb.org or call (214) 330-1396. Or visit http://www.centraldallasministries.org/ and donate online.
•Urge Texas legislators to support efforts to provide food stamps and other programs to needy families, especially those with children. Only a small portion of eligible recipients in Texas currently participate in food stamp and summer feeding programs. For contact info go to http://www.legis.state.tx.us/
•Contact the Texas Hunger Initiative and ask how you can help. For more information, go to www.baylor.edu/texashunger/ or call 254-710-3704.
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