32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Matt 15:32 (NIV)
“Hunger is a problem we can solve together”—President Obama
Waco: Baylor University School of Social Work hosted a Hunger Summit on November 19, 2009. This Hunger Summit called together leaders from across the state and nation to address the hunger needs in Texas. Around the tables sat the catalyst of leaders ready and willing to “end hunger in Texas by 2015.” To put this goal in perspective, one must realize that Texas is the 2nd hungriest state in the nation. Only Mississippi has a greater need than the great state of Texas.
Texas prides itself on being bigger and better, not this is one high rank we should all be ashamed of. Over the Thanksgiving holiday as rich Texans gorge themselves at table overflowing with the goodness of the land, 1.5 million children live in a “food insecure” home where emergency food provision make meal time possible. It is estimate that 1.3 million Texans feel the pains of hunger everyday, while their fellow Texans spend millions of dollars on gym memberships and diet plans.
Max Finberg, Director of Faith Based Neighborhood Partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture shared President Obama commitment to address the hunger needs of America by partnering with faith based ministries across the land. He noted in particular the great challenge of giving food the hungry children during the summer months. During the school year hungry children get two square meals a day at school, but what happens when school lets out. How many of these children go hungry is the great question facing the church and government?
For instance in Canyon where I serve I discovered that we have approximately 29% of the children who qualify for free lunch, but since we are well below the 60% threshold our schools are not mandated to provide the program in the summer, so nearly 1000 children do not receive the meals they could receive because no one is providing the service. When we looked into the program one thing we were reminded was how much paperwork and red tape would be involved in trying to meet this need and to work with the government agency. So the great question looming over us is how far will be go to help a hungry child? I suspect many across the state face the same dilemma. So what are we to do as a faith community?
In Texas during the summer only 12% of the children who qualify for the summer feeding program actually receive the services. The stated goal of this Summit was that this summer 40% of the children would participate. For this goal to become a reality it will take more of us from the faith community caring and getting involved.
Jeremy Everett, one of the key leaders of Texas Baptists, pointed out that we can address the great hunger needs in Texas, but it will demand that we stop being “polarized” and we must stop “blaming the victims.” The harsh reality is that most of the hungry in Texas are part of the “working poor” who mow our yards, build our homes, clean our houses, clear our tables, and fix many of our meals. For those of us in the middle class I fear we have become callous to their plight and blind to the day to day realities of their lives.
If we are going to address this great need then we like Jesus must be moved with “compassion.” We are going to have to start to move beyond good intentions and words of caring to actions—costly actions that inconvenience our lives. Before Jesus feed the four thousand He said, “I do not want to send them away hunger.” I don’t think Jesus has changed, and I hope we change to be more like Him. For Texas Hope 2010 to be more than a slogan it must become a lifestyle for all us who claim the name of Jesus.