‘Tis the season to be jolly! Each holiday season, something special happens: diverse groups come together, we surrender our differences, and kindness is spread throughout. This month, we sat down with Andrew Black, Regional Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative to learn about the many acts of kindness and collaboration that are happening with the Hunger and Horticulture action team. This team is part of South Plains Hunger Solutions, a coalition of diverse organizations and community leaders that seeks to “empower all South Plains residents to have access to healthy food. The particular mission of the Hunger and Horticulture action team is to further this goal by “increasing awareness about locally grown food and supporting small-scale local food projects.”
Alarming statistics show that more than 42 million people in the U.S. are food insecure. In Texas alone, 4.3 million are insecure, including 1 out of 4 children. Feeding the hungry can seem like a daunting task, but with the help of efforts like the Hunger and Horticulture’s action team, we can congregate as a community to create solutions that are greater than the sum of our parts.
Since starting in the Spring of 2017, the group has focused primarily on getting acquainted with each other and identifying the school gardens/community gardens and other small-scale food-growing projects in the Lubbock area–as well as some of the local expertise and resources available to them. Highlights so far include:
- Implementing a program called Double Up Food Bucks at farmers markets/farm stands in the Panhandle and South Plains regions. This program provides a financial incentive for low-income families, providing opportunities to explore healthy food and support a local economy.
(Double Up Food Bucks signs at the West End Shopping Center Farmers Market in Lubbock)
- Supporting Farm Fresh Fridays at Lubbock ISD schools in October, where students and faculty had a chance to sample and learn about fresh, locally grown Texas food and meet local farmers—such as our friends at Crazy Hoe Farms.
(Students at Wester Elementary learning about local food from Amanda Brocato of Crazy Hoe Farms)
- Touring local gardens and food projects, such as:
(Aquaponics system at Harmony Science Academy).
- The school gardens at Christ the King School. Garden activities are incorporated in many school subjects such as science, math engineering and religion. The garden also donates produce to the South Plains Food Bank!
- The Texas Tech Greenhouse and Horticultural Gardens, where team members learned about materials (soil, mulch, seedlings) that may periodically be available for community/school gardens for free or at minimal costs.
- Supporting a school garden at Estacado High School.
- Creating an online map of gardens, resources, contact information, and opportunities to get involved. The map is a work in progress and will soon be located on the South Plains Hunger Solutions website that should launch in early January.
(Students at the Christ the King Garden)
These stories are just an introduction to the good that is happening with Hunger and Horticulture. Andy Black says, “We know that this action team is not going to end hunger in our region simply by encouraging more people to grow and eat local produce,” said Black. “But we also know that children (and adults) who participate in growing food are much, much more likely to want to eat food they’ve grown. And there are so many benefits that come from all of us spending more time learning about where at least some of our food comes from–and from contributing our own sweat and strain to the process.”
Be sure to follow the blog, as we will unveil a Hunger and Horticulture mini-series to learn about the many programs, action calls, and opportunities to volunteer.
As producers and consumers, we have a responsibility to the land and to the people of our community. You can reach Andy at Andrew_Black@baylor.edu to learn how to contribute to teaching children the importance of local food production, feeding the hungry, and empowering our community to come together, and stay together.
There is power in numbers, and power in passion. Be sure to follow the above organizations on Facebook, as well as Texas Hunger Initiative website, South Plains Food Bank, and South Plains Hunger Solution for constant information. Put on your Santa hat and let’s spread joy!