Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, Texas Hunger Initiative Presented with Waco ISD Rise Award for Outstanding Community Partners
WACO, Texas (April 24, 2020) – The Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty and its Texas Hunger Initiative project have been recognized with the Waco Independent School District’s Rise Award for Outstanding Community Partners for assisting the district with curbside student meals after schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The award was presented virtually April 23 at the WISD School Board meeting to BCOHP Executive Director Jeremy Everett, THI Regional Manager for Child Hunger Outreach Craig Nash and AmeriCorps VISTA Chelsea Strawn.
“Waco ISD is grateful for our partners at Baylor who have been vital in helping Waco ISD ensure initial meal sites were in the most-needed and easily accessible areas,” WISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon said. “Through Texas Hunger Initiative’s collaboration with community groups, centers and churches, Waco ISD child nutrition services was able to serve 110,405 meals to area children in the first four weeks of curbside distribution.”
On March 13, after Waco ISD announced that schools would not be reopening the coming Monday, Cliff Reece and the Waco ISD child nutrition services staff immediately began making plans to ensure students would have access to food on Monday, March 16, even though schools would be closed. The THI/BCOHP team became a vital partner by working with community groups, centers and churches to identify the best locations for meal pickup sites.
“The heroes in the work to ensure that Waco ISD students have access to healthy food, both during school hours and during campus closures, are the staff of WISD child nutrition services,” Nash said. “When we made use of our community partnerships to quickly assemble a network of curbside drop-off locations, I was thankful not just that we could be of service, but that people in the community would have a front-row seat to see what great work the WISD child nutrition team does. We are thankful for our relationship with these incredible people.”
By working together with local faith leaders, city officials, the housing department and others, THI/BCOHP was able to establish 12 initial curbside meal sites in just a few days, ensuring children would have access to meals beginning that Monday.
“On the surface, what child nutrition services does might appear easy, but it is a very complicated dance that involves numerous dynamic and ever-evolving systems,” Nash said. “It’s akin to operating dozens of restaurants that serve around 15,000 potential customers a day, with all the labor, ordering, customer service, managing supply chains and following local safety regulations that go into operating a successful business. Add onto that an extra layer of federal and state regulations, all of which are changing by the hour during a pandemic, and it is awe-inspiring work.”
As meals began being distributed to children and prior to moving to campus-based meal sites only, the THI/BCOHP staff continued to evaluate meal site options and recommend adjustments as needed to accommodate high need and easy access. Additionally, they loaned tents for WISD nutrition staff and volunteers as they worked at the sites and assisted with distributing information, circulating flyers and sourcing face masks.
The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty brings together a large network of researchers and practitioners working on a national scale to find innovative hunger and poverty solutions through such projects as the Texas Hunger Initiative, the Global Hunger and Migration Project and the newly launched Hunger Data Lab. Collaborative scholars conduct interdisciplinary hunger and poverty research with local, state, national and global relevance. Their work is highlighted on the Baylor Collaborative website at baylor.edu/hungerandpoverty.
Waco ISD’s theme for the 2019-2020 school year is “Rise,” which celebrates learning and growing, as well as overcoming challenges, and recognizes that no school district rises by itself. Instead, Waco ISD rises when families, employees and the community join together to realize their shared hopes and dreams for the district’s students and their future. Each month, the district recognizes a community partner making a difference with the Rise Award for Outstanding Community Partners.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.