The McLennan County Hunger Coalition (MCHC) began functioning as an organization in late 2003.
The Coalition was initially created to:
1) have a working relationships among some 30 local pantries in the process of avoiding duplication of services, and so that emergency and supplemental food could be provided to the people most in need in McLennan County,
2) serve as a vehicle to educating the entire community about the food insecurity and hunger which exists in the McLennan community,
3) to serve as an advocate for those who are suffering from hunger and food insecurity, with the hope of resolving the hunger and food insecurity which exists among many citizens within McLennan County.
Getting in Depth with the History of the McLennan County Hunger Coalition
A critical event in the early history of the MCHC was to discover that only 43% of those eligible for Food Stamps in McLennan County were actually accessing these benefits, therefore placing great pressure on local food pantries to provide supplemental food to the community. To deal with this issue, the MCHC, funded by a local foundation (The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation), created Helpings: Healthy Food for Healthy Families, a Food Stamp Outreach Program (FSOP), which has been very successful in helping eligible Food Stamp recipients to apply for and receive federal benefits such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF), and Medicaid. With additional funding coming in 2007 from USDA (in it’s second year of support), this FSOP actually provided service to the Council of Governments area in five additional counties (Falls, Bosque, Hill, Limestone and Freestone). Caritas of Waco, a 501(c)3 emergency assistance agency, served as a fiscal agent for the MCHC until the Coalition obtained its own non-profit status in May of 2009. The FSOP efforts increased the amount of Food Stamp benefits provided in these 6 counties to an annualized sum of $120,000. In the present economic climate Helpings is dedicated to providing SNAP (previously known as “food stamps”) benefits to eligible individuals and families throughout McLennan County and surrounding areas.
During the time of its existence the MCHC has continued to attempt to bring as many pantries into the coalition as possible, in order to achieve a level of collaboration between pantries that would serve as a means of avoiding duplication of services and to insure that all people suffering from hunger or food insecurity in McLennan will be served. This effort continued with the MCHC reaching out to another organization, the Helping Network, a coalition of congregations attempting to share and cooperate to take care of a person’s emergency needs in the Waco area. While this network no longer exists, the MCHC has continued to work with congregations, many of which have food pantries, and are able to provide food for people who are most in need in McLennan.
Another major effort of the MCHC has to do with food rescue efforts, which is the prevention of edible food (prepared or packaged) from being thrown away by restaurants and food producers. It is our belief that no edible food should be wasted. Food rescue efforts are also a major effort of Feeding America, our nation’s food bank network. The MCHC has explored potential food rescue program with the local Waco Restaurant Association (the current WRA president is an active member of MCHC), the MCHC has also collaborated with Campus Kitchen, a program held on the Baylor University campus. Campus Kitchen is a nationwide effort that includes several different college and university campuses in efforts of food rescue from such organizations as Aramark, a company which provides prepared foods for many campuses on-site food venues.
The MCHC became a significant advocate for hungry people in the community through efforts like Hunger Awareness Month, which began in June 2008. By emphasizing the issue of hunger through these efforts, local citizens were provided with information about hunger throughout various media outlets. The MCHC has previously provided informative publicity about Waco I.S.D.;s Summer Feeding Program by placing over 400 posters in areas of the community which have been impacted the most by poverty. The poverty level in Waco is much higher than the national average, with over 27% of the households in Waco and within Waco I.S.D. living at or below the federal poverty level. Texas is the lowest ranking state overall for the food security of children. It is estimated that 31% of children (1-18 years of age) living in Waco are in households which have an income placing them at or below the federal poverty level. The MCHC has worked to ensure that these families are aware of Waco ISD’s Summer Feeding program (which provides free breakfast and lunch for children, ages 1-18 years of age, even if the children are not enrolled in school throughout the summer) through promoting Hunger Doesn’t Take a Summer Break, which raised money to provide parents with an opportunity to accompany their children to local food sites, where they could have meals with their children (at a cost of $2 for breakfast, and $3 for lunch). This was an important aid to parents who wouldn’t have been able to afford these meals otherwise.
Another effort regarding advocacy can be found in the annual commemoration of World Food Day which is held on the 16th of October each year. The MCHC has continued to develop a publicity campaign for several years now that was established in order to provide information about hunger issues on all major societal levels (internationally, nationally, as well as locally). The coalition also encourages its local employees in their various organizations to fast during their lunch hour and donate said lunch money towards helping to fight hunger in the Waco and McLennan County area during the Fast of Caring. This hunger awareness effort was carried out previously by Caritas of Waco, and in recent years this has become an ongoing effort that is organized and executed by the MCHC.
In the area of advocacy, the MCHC has worked in cooperation with the School of Social Work at Baylor University in order to provide informational workshops regarding the Farm Bill before the U.S Congress, and other congregational based learning events that surround the issue of domestic and international hunger.
The MCHC has held monthly meetings since early 2006. The coalition keeps minutes of these regularly scheduled meetings, and meeting minutes contain informative reports regarding the Helpings: SNAP Outreach, the decisions that are made in regards to all current food security issues, and concerning the various efforts that are detailed above and beyond.