Each year, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness co-sponsor in partnership with Baylor University Community Engagement Service and Scholarship :
National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week,
Increase awareness of these issues in Waco and the surrounding areas by participating in some of the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week activities!
Sunday, Nov. 13th: Increase awareness of hunger & homelessness in our area by showing a short video to your congregation accompanied by a bulletin insert. Each insert discusses the event and daily ways to participate. For a video and supplies, please contact Chelles Amaniego at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, Nov. 14th: Increase awareness among our legislators by writing a letter to our state,local and national representatives. Sample letters, supplies and postage are provided. Locations include MCC, Common Grounds, Baylor Student Life Center, as well as at most scheduled events.
Tuesday, Nov. 15th: Free movie event! First, Last and Deposit- a story of one single-parent’s struggle with eviction adn poverty- will start at 7pm, Jubilee Theater, 1319 N 15th Street. Non-perishable food items will be accepted for the annual Food for Families Food Drive.
Wednesday, Nov. 16th: NHHAW community concert event at UBC (University Baptist Church) located at 1701 Dutton Ave. Ancient Cat Society and Lomelda will perform. Admission is 5 canned food items. Concert begins at 8 pm.
Thursday, Nov. 17th: Special author Event! Wes Moore will speak on his book, The Other Wes Moore, at the First Baptist Church Waco as part of One Book One Waco, 500 Webster. Doors open at 6:30. Canned food donations will be accepted at the door.
Friday, NOv. 18th: Volunteer opportunities are available for this year’s annual Food for Families Food Drive. Event hours are 8am-8pmn at locations throughout Central Texas area. To volunteer, please contact Khalilah Warren with Caritas at 753-4593.
Saturday, Nov. 19th: Celebrate the end of NHHAW with a visit to the opening celebration of Waco’s Downtown Farmer’s Market. Buy an extra share and donate it to a food pantry or shelter in our area. volunteers will be on site to assist you, 400 S. University Parks Drive (behind the old fire tower) 9am-1pm.
We are exited to encourage our community to go see a free film, attend a concert, be a part of One book, One Waco, and write letters to our government representatives.
For more information, please contact Kenneth Moerbe: 254-715-0134 or Esther Morales: 254-753-3545.
Also visit McLennanhunger.org to sign up as a volunteer!
Check out the video from the recent Spirituality & Food Seminar held at University Baptist Church in Austin on April 27. Matt Hess our Education Director as well as Alumni Bethel Erickson now with the Heart of Texas Urban Gardening Coalition and Jeremy Everett now with the Texas Hunger Initiative presented with the panel.
Preservative Pickles, Cardboard Apples, and the Theology of Disposable Dishware
While surveying the sights in San Antonio, we – the lovely ladies of the Texas at the Table: Project Go Road Trip – experienced the full spectrum of emotion – from shock and awe, disillusionment and hope. We discovered new insights into everyday theology – through eating red delicious apples and washing mismatched dishes. San Antonio was the fourth stop on the Texas at the Table Road Trip to explore how people across Texas creatively address hunger in their communities – or more simply, exploring where food comes from, who gets it, and who doesn’t.
Day Ten: After basking in the sun for an afternoon and unwinding in a cabin in the hill country, we dove back into summer feeding frenzy in San Antonio. Our first stop was Baptist Temple Church to meet with Pastor Jorge Zayasbazan. Baptist Temple was one of the first churches in San Antonio to initiate a summer lunch program for neighborhood children. In their second summer, Baptist Temple now hosts summer camp five days a week, providing programming for kids all morning long and ending with a lunch. In San Antonio, the summer lunch program is sponsored by the San Antonio Food Bank to coordinate the food distributed to the various lunch sites across the city. Pastor Jorge led us through the kitchen to show us a bagged lunch prepared by the Food Bank – a hot dog wiener, pickle-in-a-pouch, fruit cocktail, and fruit cereal bar. If enough time and hands are available, the hot dogs will be heated up in the microwave before served to the children in a white bun. My fellow Road Trippers – already having their fill of hot dogs – were aghast at the nutritional deficiency of said meal. And yet such meals meet the US Department of Agriculture’s nutritional standards of a healthy meal.
From Baptist Temple, we jumped in the cars, stuffed some carrots, cucumbers and hummus in our mouths and headed towards the San Antonio Food Bank to meet with Paco Velez, Director of Services – to take a tour of the city programs with which the Food Bank partners. First stop, a neighborhood center summer program for teens. This program was co-sponsored with HEB and Radio Disney. When we walked through the doors, we were hit with the smell of sweaty adolescence, or should I say, teen spirit. Radio Disney led dancing-jazzercise wonderful-ness with the teens. The HEB mascot handed out apples. The overall focus of the program is health and fitness. I spoiled the good vibes by politely declining the offer of an apple, because personally, I think red delicious apples taste like cardboard – and out of all the hundreds varieties of apples, I have no idea why we as a culture have adapted the red delicious apple as the apple of choice. If I were a teacher and a student of mine handed me a red delicious apple, I would promptly compost it. Perhaps this is a bit harsh, but food grown for artificial appearances preserved to have a shelf-life of 6 months should not be considered edible. Chemicals are used to keep the food-product looking fresh, while the sugar content (ie flavor) begins to deteriorate the moment it is plucked from the branch. This is not food. And this is why our children do not eat their vegetables. Or red delicious apples. Or fruit infused-in-high-fructose-corn-syrup cocktail. And also a contributing factor to the increasing rate of adult-onset diabetes and obesity amongst our children. Excuse my rant.
After the youth center, Paco took us to a senior center distributing senior food boxes in addition to what the social worker side of me chooses to refer to as the diabetes line – donations from HEB of all the day-old pastries, cakes, cookies, breads. Don’t get me wrong – I truly appreciate attempts to salvage food from waste (and am an avid dumpster diver of groceries and used to rescue hundreds of $$$ worth of fresh produce from my local Trader Joe’s) – however, as a former case manager for low-income and homeless families, it pains me to see people who have lost their sight, toes, or whole legs to diabetes reaching for that free cake donated by HEB. Let them eat cake, indeed! If we want to adequately fix our broken health care system while attempting to end hunger in our communities, we must understand and emphasize the importance of good nutritious food. A shift must occur socially and culturally. Those of us from higher economic brackets who prefer fresh organic food – be it from HEB, Central Market or Whole Foods – musn’t reach for the can of creamed corn and bag of ramen noodles that we wouldn’t feed ourselves or our children when the next food drive for the church food pantry hits us in the face. If we have respect for our own bodies and own hea
lth – as well as that of our children – then as Christians (if we claim to believe in God and the words Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves) we must also respect the health and well-being of our brothers and sisters we serve at food pantries, on the street, at work, next door. Excuse my rant.
Next stop: one of the Food Bank’s drive-thru food box distribution sites. Typically the Food Bank requires that a parking lot can accommodate 500 cars in order to qualify as a site. The site is complete with canopies covering everything from potatoes to beverages to rice and more is hand-loaded by Food Bank employees into the trunks and backseats of those willing to sit idling in the parking lot. Qualifications: folks must have a child under 18, call ahead to the Food Bank to reserve a box, and be willing to take the time in the morning or afternoon to wait in line. Such a food distribution presupposes transportation and gas money.
Our last stop before heading back to the Food Bank was the infamous Haven for Hope, a multi-million dollar response to homelessness in San Angelo. As our friend Steven from Austin explained, Haven for Hope is the Walmart of the social service world: one stop shopping for the homelessness community, providing a multitude of programs and gated community setting – and slowing putting smaller homeless assistance programs out of business with the consolidation of funding and services focused on Haven for Hope. The Food Bank’s role at Haven for Hope is food, of course, as well as a Culinary Arts Training Program – allowing residents to participate in a job-readiness program. We benefited from some of the program’s red velvet cake.
Finally, the Food Bank operates a garden on the site of the main headquarters. I led the gals for a plant identification tour – testing their increased knowledge of various vegetables and herbs. Upon asking Paco about the Food Bank’s sourcing of fresh produce, he told me they work with one of the largest produce warehouses in the state of Texas – which donates millions of pounds of vegetables and fruit each year. The Food Bank also encourages community partners to start their own gardens, providing seeds and tools to help get their gardens started.
That evening we had a terrifying experience had an HEB-plus on the south side of the city. I would also like to comment that any and all of my rants are not against the San Antonio Food Bank specifically. The SAFB is one of the best food banks in the nation, distributing large amounts of food to those in their community who need that extra support. They do good work. However, I am continually frustrated when efforts to address hunger in the community are haphazardly bandaged through quick fixes of food-products devoid of nutritional value – while the plight of the family farmer is furthered by our societal reliance upon agri-business and corporate conglomeration of our food system. Seems like there should be a solution in there some where to connect the idea of growing food with the issue of ending hunger, while economically benefiting small growers and the local community at the same time . . . Excuse my rant.
Day Eleven: Friday morning our view of San Antonio – and the entire trip – shifted. Rather than continuing to see refined programs tailored to look good in funding pamphlets, we saw down and dirty service to community. We metwith Dee Sanchez, volunteer at the San Antonio Catholic Worker House – who, first things first, led us in a devotion centered on Matthew 25, integrating Jesus’ message into the work of the Catholic Worker house – feeding the hunger, providing shelter to the homeless, doing laundry, sharing conversation, sharing coffee, etc. The Catholic Worker Movement started many moons ago when a fiesty young woman – Dorothy Day – and simple agrarian-minded man – Peter Maurin – frustrated by the Church, decided to become the hands and feet of Christ through inner-city and agricultural hospitality. Today many Catholic Worker Houses are scattered across the country, continuing in the fiesty agrarian spirit of Dorothy and Peter. We Road Trippers truly felt that all who entered this old house were truly welcome. We spent the morning in the crowded kitchen of the house preparing lunch for whomever might show up. Potatoes were chopped, boiled and mashed. Donations of meat from a local rib joint were brought in. Herbs gathered from the garden. Vegetables chopped for salad. Peaches prepped for peach cobbler. Men wandered in and out, grabbing a hot cup of coffee on this 100-plus degree day. Folks came in to sign up for the laundry list. Some wanted to look through the clothing closet. Others volunteered to wash dishes. All was chaos – clanging of plates, swapping of stories – 50 at one time, sweaty bodies huddled over the chopping block. And yet through the chaos of it all – we loved it. Rather than receive food and donations from the San Antonio Food Bank or applying for government funding, the Catholic Worker House relies on d
onations from charitable folks in the community, praying God will provide day by day.
While preparing the meal, we heard stories of people on the streets. Some struggling to get into Haven for Hope and expressing their frustration with the lack of transparency of the program. Neither of the two claimed to do drugs, struggle with alcohol or have a history of abuse – which are key issues for getting a bed quickly at Haven for Hope. Rather they are the in-betweens, sleeping outside huddled against the building. They are allowed to take showers – but the stalls are only half-height and the toilets have no doors. Lunch is a cold sandwich in a brown bag. This couple has fallen through the cracks, like many other folks we meet – and this is where the Catholic Worker House opens its doors. For those who fall through the cracks. A hot meal is provided – with mashed potatoes, made from real potatoes, not off-brand flakes. And the dishes are real, not disposable. Another pet peeve of mine – disposable dishes. And not for the eco-elite reason of not being environmentally sustainable – but because of dignity. You would wash dishes for your family . . . If we serve people disposable food on disposable dishes, soon people begin to understand themselves as disposable people.
We served over 100 people for lunch that day – without air conditioning, without a dishwashing machine, without the Food Bank, without the government. As Dee said, “Love in Reality is a harsh and dreadful thing as compared to the Love in Dreams.” After cleaning up, we were plumb tuckered out and went back to our apartment at Baptist University of the Americas – and order a pizza from our local Pizza Hut . . .
Day Twelve: A more relaxed day. Drove to the Farmers Market at Pearl Brewery, where we bought some vegetables, sniffed some lavender, and browsed some books. Then we traipsed through Whole Foods – a first for the gals. So I gave them my Whole Foods plan of action – walk the perimeter and look for free food samples; walk the interior for free food samples; and walk the perimeter once more for free food samples. I also pointed out the Diva Cup – which I won’t get into here – but I had already given my 2-cents worth about being more sustainable during that time of the month. We ate lunch at Whole Foods before the gals scampered off to play sand volleyball in the scorching hot sun, with the two German Brethren volunteers we met at the Catholic worker house the day prior. Then we met up for dinner at Casa Rio and perused the River Walk, on the prowl for adventure. Finding none, we went home for a good night’s sleep before our drive to the Valley.
End Day Twelve. End Part Four.
Sharing Our Stories over Cherry Pie, Blueberries and Beer:
In this our final leg of the journey, we – Agrarian Road Trippers – shared many a story with many an agrarian minded folk in Detroit – locals as well as way-faring strangers flocking to the US Social Forum – to prove “Another World is Possible, Another US is Necessary, and Another Detroit is Happening.”
“Faith Communities in the Local Food Movement: Sustainable and Just!” – this is the culmination of our wayward travelings on the road. A workshop at the US Social Forum, by us. One of thousands. And close to a hundred other workshops happening at the same time as ours, including: “The Coalition of Imokalee Workers: Fighting for Fair Food” and “Re-Purposing Auto Factories to Manufacture Renewable Energy Infrastructure” and “How to Start a Raging Grannies Group.” With over 17,000 people expected to be in attendance, how were we to compete against Raging Grannies? We set our expectations low – maybe four people will show. If we’re lucky, the crowd will outnumber us presenters (15). Thankfully, the good Lord provided, and we hosted a crowd near 60.
Andrew (organizer for the Presbyterian Hunger Program – and our fearless leader) introduced our tour with the aid of Blain, morphing into a tale of our trip across eight states led by Kate. Three gals (Amy, Laura, and yours truly) shared a testimony of the work we are doing at home, connecting the realms of faith and food justice. Then we split into small groups to learn about the good work of those so politely listening to our journeys. To emphasize the faith component of our time on the road, Talitha expounded upon our beloved passage from Exodus 16, first shared with us by Ellen Davis back in Louisville, before we calmed our minds for a sacred eating reflection. Jud passed around blueberries, asking us to think of all the people who came into contact with this blueberry before it finally reached us. The farmworker, truck driver, grocery store employee, cashier, Monsanto madman, etc. Then we closed our eyes, thinking about the life of just one of those people, while savoring all the flavors of that one blueberry. We opened our eyes to share our experiences and continue our fellowship, sharing how we want to be involved in our food systems back home – and help our faith communities with our food systems.
Not everyone was a Christian. Not everyone was connected to their food systems. But that was the beauty of our communion together. We just set aside a little time to share a sacred meal. Together.
By Any Greens Necessary: Food as a Tool of Colonization and Joining the Resistance
This is the first workshop I attended. Intense. Hosted by Jade Walker, farmer from Mill Creek Urban Farm, and Chris Bolden-Newsome, farm educator at King High, both in West Philadelphia. Led our discussion about the struggles and movements of indigenous people throughout history for food sovereignty. We split into groups to discuss: Black Panther free breakfast program (before the USDA), Native American fry bread as example of dominate culture becoming sacred, Cochabamba Water War over the privatization of water in Bolivia, Landless Farmworkers Movement in Brazil to reclaim the commons for the benefit of all, and so many more. My group discussed the Zapatistas as reaction to the NAFTA signing in 1994 – and its impact on Mexico. A man from Mexico was in my group – and shared from personal experience how the trade agreement affected his family, farming and flight to the US.
We discussed organizing tactics – and the basic fact that WE ARE ONLY LIMITED BY OUR IMAGINATIONS! That the struggle for food sovereignty is still happening. As Jade said, “Colonization is not over. Sometimes it looks like gentrification. Sometimes it looks like limited access to resources.” As we continued to delve deep into these struggles,
we were faced with our own stories – the stories of our people, the stories of our connection to the land. Our stories are our resistance to a culture that wants us to accept French fries as food, television as community. Our stories must be shared.
Re-Localization and the Role of the Rustbelt.
Next, hanging out with the Michigan Young Farmers Coalition to hear about some of their young farmer stuff. Gardens. Farms. Animals. Hoop Houses. Hoorah! One particular project – the Haven Garden Project - was started by a Michigan State Ag student with a womens shelter in Pontiac, MI, using permaculture methods and the resources of MSU’s greenhouses and other resources. The shelter serves 15,000 women each year. Limited access to fresh food in the community. Growing food for the shelter on 1/5 acre – improving the soil with compost to build raised beds. Surplus goes to a food pantry. Starting a relationship with a local chef to teach the women what to do with the food they grow.
After another day of food and farming, I was burnout. So my new Agrarian friends and an old farm buddy met up for a taste of the local culture at Motor City Brewing Works, a local microbrewing specializing in handcrafted ales and o-so delicious pizza. (Darren’s favorite: Mary-Had-A-Little, topped with roasted lamb!) Then to rest for another full day.
My first workshop was canceled – with two very large, armed men standing outside the entrance. So I made my way to another workshop, led by the Rainforest Action Network. Because of our visit to Mullens, WV, communities living in coal country have now caught my attention. So I thought I would attend and not start trouble with the large, armed men. Activists convened to hear the story of one woman who has lived life, not in coal country, but in a community where the coal industry has decided to mine: “We don’t live where they mine coal; they mine coal where we live.” Her husband worked for the coal industry for 35 years, before dying of Black Lung. Now she feels she has no choice but to speak against the industry that has made her home Ground Zero for coal excavation. She expounded on the millions of pounds of ammonium nitrate used everyday to blow the tops off mountains – the same ingredients Timothy McVeigh used for the Oklahoma City Bombing. “When it happened in Oklahoma City, it was a tragedy. When it happens in Appalachia, it’s called progress.”
Of course, the solution to mountaintop removal is not clean cut. Communities may be 100% against mountaintop removal while being 100% dependent on coal for energy. Another tension arises between activists wanting an end to the use of coal vs. communities that are dependent on coal for employment – an issue that became apparent at the workshop.
Regarding health and environmental quality, the people of Appalachia have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. But their story needs to reach beyond the hills and the hollers, into a larger forum. Only 8% of the coal that the US uses for energy is sourced from the Appalachian Mountain region, with the rest strip-mined from western plains regions. Yet, Appalachia has the most dense population of all regions where coal is sourced – thus making mountaintop removal the low-hanging fruit in our nation’s transition away from dependence on coal.
After almost ending mountaintop removal, I headed to a wonderful little street a few blocks away from Wayne State University, where many a local business thrived. Lunch was supplied by the wonderful hands of workers at Avalon International Breads and Goodwells. Then I bought the latest book by Gayla Trail, called Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces at an independent bookstore, part of the Spiral Collective.
After lunch, I joined a few friends to visit some Detroit hot-spots. First, the Heidelberg Project. An avant-garde art project, reclaiming a few blocks in Detroit – houses and all – into a massive waste-infused piece of art. Reflecting on themes such as stories told in taxis, created in God’s image, and many more subtle-ly overt political messages – a pink hummer buried in the ground, sprouting flowers.
Next stop, Earthworks Farm. Started by Capuchin monks to provide food for a neighborhood soup kitchen. Also providing seeds and plants for community gardens throughout the city, as coordinated by the Greening of Detroit. My favorite part: the Compost Monster, resembling the Loch Ness monster atop a huge heap o’ compost.
Not completely garden-ed out for the day, we headed to the Young Farmer Cherry Pie Mixer organized by the Greenhorns at the Woodbridge Community Garden. And boy, was there cherry pie! So we mixed and mingled, pie in hand, with other young farmers and farm supporters, from Michigan and Missouri and Maine and California. I talked with one man who was in the mead-making business and thus decided to start harvesting his own honey, setting up hives across the city of Detroit. Before long, we were gathered together via bullhorn and given an introduction by Severine von Tscharner Fleming, documentarian and Greenhorn. Then Reverend Billy from the Church of Stop Shopping shouted us some proclamations about the revival of small agriculture in the face of overwhelming empire. Shortly thereafter, a keg of Motor City Brewing Works finest Ghettoblaster ale was tapped inside the up-and-coming art project of the Beehive Project, a “large-scale installation by an interdisciplinary community of artists and thinkers in Detroit” – not to be confused with the Beehive Collective, also awesome.
Tired and to bed.
BikeIt: Pedal to the USSF – Testimonials and Exploration of the Bicycle as a Tool for Social and Environmental Justice.
Welcome to the last day of thinking – for a while. Being a promoter of pedal-powered transit (even while in a skirt, transporting garden tools), I decided to buckle down with some bike riders. Two main bike contingencies shared their stories about biking to the US Social Forum. One from Ithaca, NY – covering 500 miles in 8 days. The other from Madison, WI – covering 300 miles in 8 days. Coordinated through the Bike-It Project, organized to promote biking alternatives and push both physical and mental limits. Each of the groups were followed by support vehicles – including the Permaculture Bus from Montana. Each made stops in communities to volunteer and build community within the collective through skill shares. Ages of bikers ranged from 9 to mid-70s. Bike collectives represented: Spoke ‘N Heart Collective (Atlanta), the Garlic Derailleurs (Chicago), the Grassroots Caravan (Madison) and the Petrol-free Gypsy Carnival Tour.
Beyond sharing stories, we collectively identified issues and inhibitors of bicycles as the main form of transportation – as well as populations typically marginalized from biking communities. And brainstormed ways of making biking accessible to all, while building community and sharing skills while delving into the deeper topics of race and privilege. This is the beauty of the bike. To pass through new places and ponder the people and their stories.
We Agrarians gathered together for the rest of the afternoon to process yet we had learned – and what to do with all that stuff once we got back to our places of origin. This was also our farewell. Might I add that a number of our Road Trippers will be returning home to plant gardens and wear more plaid.
Already some of our group had disbanded before breakfast. The rest of us headed to Detroit’s famed Eastern Market for some good eats before hitting the road (watch the video of our trek through the Market). The Eastern Market has been in existence since 1891 – and currently is a common source for groceries for a number of residents in Detroit. While there are a fair share of resellers (all those “farmers” who sell produce with stickers on them), there were a plethora of local bakers, urban farmers, and cheese makers. Even a few Amish fa
rmers who start their trek to Detroit at 2am every Saturday. I also located my honey man and bought a jar of his Wild Detroit Honey.
Then we started on our road home. Or at least to Louisville. And that’s where my story ends.
End Day Thirteen. End Part Six.