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Too hungry: Baylor makes a stand against hunger in Texas

By Longview News-Journal
April 8, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Because people don't typically die of starvation in the United States, it is sometimes assumed our nation doesn't have a serious hunger problem.

How you define "serious" may be like the old joke about having a "minor" operation. An operation is minor only if you are not the one going under the knife.

So if you never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, hunger is something that mostly happens elsewhere, right?

Wrong.

It happens right here in East Texas - and it happens much more than you think.

The term "food insecurity" is used to describe people who don't know where their next meal is coming from, and we don't mean wondering whether it will come from the steakhouse or the burger joint. Literally, it means they have no food and don't know how they will get any.

When you are in that situation, your attention is mostly focused on that question, too, even more than where you will sleep at night. Hunger is the more biting problem.

Many of those who go hungry fall at the age margins of our society, the very young and the very old. That means they have the least ability to correct the situation.

Unfortunately, of the states, Texas has a bigger problem with hunger than most.

As was recently detailed in the first of our annual Progress sections, at 22 percent of adults the rate of poverty is higher in East Texas than across the state - and our state rate is significantly higher than the national average.

Across the nation about 15 percent of households do not have reliable access to three meals per day. In Texas, that number jumps to 18.5 percent. The hunger figures mirror almost exactly the poverty rates in Texas and the U.S.

Texas is ranked No. 2 among the states for people at risk for hunger, the Rev. Jennene Laurinec, executive director of Newgate Mission, told us this weekend. "These are people who don't know where their next meal is coming from," she said. "And East Texas is No. 3 in the state."

That nearly 20 percent of our fellow Texans face food insecurity is made even more tragic by one simple fact: There is plenty of food. No one has to go hungry. Maybe in the future the percentage in Texas will drop markedly.

Baylor University, which is responsible for many good works in our state, is expanding its Texas Hunger Initiative to 12 regional offices as it works to create a food-secure Texas by 2015. The nearest office will be in Tyler, but don't think that means we have been left out of the net.

The goal of the initiative is to help identify people who qualify for food assistance and get them enrolled in programs to address their food insecurity. The initiative aims to do this by training groups of volunteers who will spread out to all corners of the state.

This is good news and we are not surprised Baylor is behind it. We also would not be surprised if many of our area organizations get involved in the effort. Laurinec's Newgate Mission, for example, was raising money this weekend to continue its efforts to provide meals to the hungry in Longview. Other groups, like the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission and Salvation Army, also are fighting hunger in real ways every day.

Anything we can do to ease hunger and food insecurity makes the world a better place and we should not hesitate to take action.

We commend Baylor - and all those who work to feed the hungry - for stepping up to find solutions.

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