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Texas Hunger Initiative Receives $3.5 Million Contract from Texas Health and Human Services Commission

April 29, 2013

The Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) at Baylor University has received a $3.5 million Community Partnership Program (CPP) contract from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) that will allow THI to develop an innovative statewide public-private partnership to expand access to food and health care for low-income Texas families through community-based research and programmatic activities. The contract is renewable for up to five years.

The HHSC contract will provide resources for the Texas Hunger Initiative to open 12 regional offices in Amarillo, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen, San Angelo, San Antonio, Tyler and Waco. As part of HHSC's Community Partnership Recruitment Initiative (CPRI), the Texas Hunger Initiative will recruit and train more than 1,100 community-based organizations on YourTexasBenefits.com, a new online tool created by HHSC to help Texans apply for and manage their state benefits.

The Texas Hunger Initiative, based in the Baylor University School of Social Work, also will lead a coalition of community partners. The Texas Association of Community Health Centers (TACHC) will provide outreach work with the health community in Texas, particularly Federally Qualified Health Centers that meet the health care needs of the uninsured and underserved. Texas Impact, the state's oldest and largest interfaith social justice network will conduct congregational outreach.

The partnership model is intended to be replicable for any other poverty-related issue and to work in any other state in the country.

"As Texans, we really pride ourselves on developing efficient models for public and private service," said THI director Jeremy Everett. "The Texas Hunger Initiative is a collaborative model, and we believe that every organization - whether it's the corporate sector, the faith sector, the nonprofit sector or the government sector - has an equal seat at the table.

We also believe that the best solutions to local problems come from the local community, so it is important for us to put the decision-making process for how to address hunger in the hands of the local community.

In addition to the statewide community partnerships, Baylor University faculty from multiple disciplines ranging from business to social work also will be involved in the THI project, conducting research on the barriers that community-based organizations and clients might face participating in the CPRI, the cost effectiveness of the program and impact of the solutions.

"This funding gives us a unique opportunity to conduct rigorous research on how best to create systemic changes resulting in greater food security for those most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition," said Dr. Diana R. Garland, dean of the Baylor School of Social Work. "Research enables us not just to feed the hungry in our state, but to disseminate best practices to address hunger across the nation. The wedding of both service and research dissemination is an exciting and deeply gratifying role for our University to be granted."

"Through this contract, we are developing not only an external model but an internal model for how we are going to be doing informed engagement, so everything from how we do short-term service-related opportunities to long-term sustained engagement international, domestic or local, we're going to be using the THI format for how we engage communities for the foreseeable future," Everett said.

The Texas Hunger Initiative began in 2009 as a capacity-building and collaborative project within the Baylor University School of Social Work in partnership with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a model to significantly reduce - if not eliminate - hunger by building a public-private infrastructure. The THI structure convenes federal, state and local government stakeholders with non-profits, faith communities and business leaders to create an efficient system of accountability that increases food security in Texas.

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