Shining Through for Baylor

November 1, 2008
Editorial By Diana Garland
Waco Tribune Herald

We hear much these days about the need for groups to work together to solve societal challenges.

Of course, collaboration and partnering are nothing new to the field of social work. We at Baylor "crossed the aisle" a long time ago, and we keep crossing it.

An event this month brings the issue home: the chartering of Baylor University Campus Kitchen (BUCK) -- the first campus kitchen in Texas.

Baylor's Campus Kitchen is an on-campus student-run service program in which students use donated kitchen space and donated food from campus cafeterias, local restaurants, food banks and farmers markets to prepare and deliver nourishing meals to their communities.

It involves food recovery, meal preparation, meal delivery and educational programs like culinary job training for unemployed adults and nutrition education for children.

As exciting as the potential for BUCK is, what is equally exciting for me is how this project originated and the ways Baylor University is coming together to offer it.

Graduate students in the School of Social Work's community practice course were given a semester-long project to meaningfully address a community issue.

They chose hunger.

U.S. Census Bureau figures for 2006 show Waco to be the fifth poorest city in Texas, with an adult poverty rate between 26 percent and 27 percent. That rises to 31 percent for children.

The overall poverty rate for Texas was less than half that, 12.6 percent.

The students knew that these numbers had faces attached in the neighborhoods around Baylor, the nation's largest Baptist university.

Although BUCK began in social work, it is a true interdisciplinary effort. It is part of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Poverty Initiative, housed in Baylor Student Life.

A full-time student coordinator, education major Abby Williams, will be responsible for the program's continuation. Recruitment of volunteers on campus will begin Nov. 17. A trial run will be held Dec. 5. The program will go into full effect this spring, with several distribution sites around Waco.

Already, a number of local restaurants have joined with Baylor Facilities Services (ARAMARK) to donate food. The students are hoping more restaurants will join in.

So doing, students from across academic disciplines, and participants from across the community, will come together to address hunger needs in the only real way that matters to the hungry: a plate full of food.

What else could be possible if we all joined together? How could Baylor University lead out to address the poverty that is the underlying cause of hunger? Someone has to cross the aisle first. I'm so glad that this time it was Baylor.

Diana Garland is dean of the Baylor School of Social Work.

Reprinted with permission
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