Wednesday, May 13, 2009

TX Lege OKs New Program for Hungry Kids

Yesterday, by unanimous vote, the Texas Senate approved HB 1622 for passage. The bill, which creates a program to distribute healthy foods to children at-risk of hunger and obesity, was also passed by a nearly unanimous House and is likely to be signed by Governor Perry. 

"I am feeling wonderful," said Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, one of the bill's authors. "We are going to be able to help so many children who are food insecure. This is just marvelous."

The new program still faces obstacles. Funding must be found in the state budget before June 1st to support the $20 million request. This decision will test the commitment of the legislature to childhood nutrition. 

"We're struggling to keep up with the demand and I expect that it's going to continue," commented David Weaver, Director of the South Plains Food Bank in Lubbock. "We need all the help we can get."

You can help make this bill a reality! Please call your state legislators today and ask them to outwardly support full funding for the food bank bill, HB 1622!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Texas #1 in Child Hunger - Legislature Reacts

Yesterday the national group Feeding America released newly calculated Census data revealing that 22.1% of Texas children live in households facing hunger, the highest rate in the nation.

In response, State Senator Judith Zaffirini and Representative Helen Giddings have introduced a bill that would help food banks provide healthy foods to at-risk children. The bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week.

“This legislation can help us combat the growing crisis of hunger among Texas youth by providing access to food choices that are vital for nutrition education and behavioral change," said Zaffirini in a statement. "What’s more, it would support and extend existing efforts by nonprofit agencies.”

The Texas bill, HB 1622 would address the problem by distributing healthy staples among existing networks maintained by food banks statewide.

“The passage of House Bill 1622 would go a long way to help get healthy food to children who are food-insecure, the children who linger in the school cafeteria and look for leftovers, those that return to school on Monday tired and weak from a weekend of undernourishment,” Eric Cooper, director of the San Antonio Food Bank told the Express News.

Legislators are meeting this week to decide the fate of the bill. You can tell your state legislator to support the bill here!

More coverage: HoustonWichita Falls, Tyler (1,2), Austin

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Funds, Public & Private, Feed Growing Hungry

As the economy falters and the number of hungry Texans rises, funding from both the public and private sectors is rushing to fill the gaps.

Private giving for food banks is up nationwide, according to USA Today. In Tyler, the number of donors to the East Texas Food Bank is up 115%, and their average gift increased from $49.66 to $56.37.  

Anonymous giving is also up, a trend exemplified by a recent $1 million anonymous donation to the North Texas Food Bank. “[The donor] said she would not have been able to look herself in the mirror over the holidays had she not made the gift,” said Jan Pruitt, the food bank’s CEO.

Government programs are following suit by making new investments in programs proven to feed children and the elderly. 

Texas TDA Commissioner Todd Staples recently announced the use of $11 million in federal stimulus money to retrofit school kitchens, making it easier to deliver healthy meals to children through the free and reduced-price lunch program. 

Soon thereafter, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $124,000 in federal grants to encourage the use of farmers' markets by low-income seniors in Texas this summer. 

Even judges are getting into the act, allowing probationers to donate food rather than perform community service. "What better way to help the community than by feeding people?" asked corrections officer Bob Hughes.