My alarm blares the latest hit from Justin Bieber as I clumsily (desperately) search for the snooze button. Just five more minutes, I tell myself, I hate waking up to bad adolescent music. I zombie my way to the bathroom, brush my teeth, pull my hair back in a ponytail and continue to zombie my way to the kitchen. My stomach is growling – oatmeal with bananas and honey or grapefruit with buttered toast? I finally settle on a bowl of cereal because the other two options take too much effort. I wash it all down with a big mug of coffee and finally my day can begin.
How many of us take this daily routine for granted? The daily routine of picking out what we want to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner – Blueberry pancakes? Jimmy John’s? Rib-eye Steak? Now imagine all of those options being taken away – you wake up each morning praying that you’ll have something in your stomach, not knowing when your next meal might be. Picture going to work and school every day: hungry, unable to concentrate and irritable. Being in a constant state of hunger can make anyone miserable, nonetheless a child.
Dallas has a child poverty rate that exceeds both the Texas average and the national average – nearly one fourth of Dallas county children live in poverty and hunger.1 We live in one of the richest nations in the world yet parts of this country, especially Texas, is struggling with Child Hunger. What can we do to help end this problem?
I along with 12 other bloggers around the country was selected to participate in a “Share Our Strength’s” Cooking Matters Boot Camp sponsored by The ConAgra Foods Foundation. The 2-day excursion was filled with activities, education and even celebration but most importantly, fully understanding the reality of the dire situation of Child Hunger in America. We started off the day with a quick overview of the Share Our Strength’s Program, a national nonprofit that is ending child hunger in America. Last year, they raised $24.8 million dollars through fundraising platforms, donations and corporate sponsorships and have set a goal of ending childhood hunger in America by 2015. Though a challenging feat, together they are determined to make sure that every child in America gets the nutritious food he or she needs to learn, grow and thrive.2 One of the main ways Share Our Strength are reaching their goals is through a groundbreaking nutrition education program called Cooking Matters that teaches more than 7,000 low-income families a year how to plan, prepare, and purchase nutritious and satisfying meals at home, with limited resources. 3
The North Texas Food Bank graciously volunteered to host the Cooking Matters Boot Camp here in Dallas. NTFB is a nonprofit hunger relief program that is responsible for feeding the hungry in 13 North Texas Counties. Close the Gap is the NTFB’s current project: a 3-year initiative to unite the community to narrow the food gap by providing access to 50 million meals annually by 2011. Last year NTFB provided access to almost 45 million meals to hungry families across Dallas. You can help end hunger by giving your voice and becoming an advocate for a hunger-free world, give your time and become a volunteer, give a pound of food at your local Tom Thumb or give a little money -- $1 provides 3 meals. 4
After we toured through The North Texas Food Bank warehouse, we were off to visit the Trinity River Mission, a volunteer-based community learning center dedicated to supporting the development of educational success in the children, youth and families of West Dallas.5 We participated in a service project involving a cooking demo at the Kid’s Café, where we taught kids how to make quesadillas along with a fun activity puzzle learning the different names of fruits and vegetables. Four days a week the Kid’s Café at the Trinity River Mission serves hot meals and snacks in collaboration with the North Texas Food Bank and Capital One.6
It's important to take part in our communities -- whether it's through donating your time or money, there are always people who need your help. Teamwork is key when it comes to tackling major social problems like Child Hunger and together we can make a difference. To find out more about ways you can help in Dallas contact The North Texas Food Bank or The Tarrant Area Food Bank. For those who are interested in finding a Food Bank in their area, find more info at Share Our Strength.
(The stunning Robin Plotkin a long-time volunteer for Share Our Strength and North Texas Food Bank and also a renown Culinary and Nutrition Consultant and Registered and Licensed Dietician in Dallas)
Stay tuned for the second installment, where we end our day at one of Dallas' finest restaurants: Stephan Pyles and a surprise from ConAgra Foods Foundation and Share Our Strength!