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Texas charities urge congressional members to save nutrition funding

By Jimmy Isaac jisaac@news-journal.com
Aug. 30, 2011 at 10 p.m.

More than 30 northeast Texas nonprofit agencies urged Texas members of Congress to protect investments in federal nutrition programs for low-income and jobless families.

In a letter signed Monday by 518 Texas charities, they jointly urged congressional leaders "to keep a place in your heart for the many Texas families struggling with hunger and poor nutrition."

The letter comes four days after the Tyler-based East Texas Food Bank announced a study which showed that in East Texas: 1 in 4 children, 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 senior residents struggle with hunger.

Officials with the East Texas Food Bank - through the Texas Food Bank Network - asked its partner agencies, including Women's Center of East Texas, to sign on to the letter.

"Our funding is unstable at best, given all that's going on," Women's Center Executive Director Shannon Trest said. "Any way that the Women's Center can support the food bank, I am more than happy to do it."

The East Texas Food Bank is a nonprofit organization that has provided food to more than 200 partner agencies to feed children, the working poor and seniors in 26 East Texas counties since 1988. In 2010, the food bank distributed 19.5 million pounds of food to East Texans, equaling 15 million meals.

The letter is likely the largest of its kind in Texas history, drawing signatures from community and faith-based groups across the state, according to the Amarillo Independent. In its defense of programs such as food stamps, WIC and food bank funding, the letter states that local charity "simply cannot fill the gap that will be created if the federal nutrition programs are cut.

On Thursday, the East Texas Food Bank announced results of the study "Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011," which followed data from the 26 counties the agency serves, including Gregg, Rusk, Upshur, Harrison, Camp, Panola and Cass. It found that 27 percent of children, or more than 80,000, are struggling with hunger.

When struggling families are turned down for food stamps or federal nutrition services, those families turn to food banks, Eat Texas Food Bank spokeswoman Karolyn Davis said.

"Over the last five years, the East Texas Food Bank has already seen a 90 percent increase in families seeking assistance," Davis said. In that same time span, the national average of families seeking assistance increased 47 percent, she said.

"We doubled that, so you can see why we would want to ensure that those programs are available if they are needing to provide meals for their families," Davis said.



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