(the following is from an assignment I wrote for the class I'm taking this summer to accompany the DC trip)
World Hunger Relief, Inc. is a Christian faith-based organization, working to end hunger in our community and around the world. Their organization philosophy is "to live simply, helping those who struggle to meet their basic needs by sharing and investing in others what God has given to us," and they work to train and educate members of the community so that they can become active participants in the fight for food security. Through a system of internships and volunteers, WHRI trains hundreds of people work in communities, developing geographically appropriate, sustainable farming methods and learning how to effectively advocate for those in need, while establishing and solidifying partnerships essential to success. WHRI began in 1976, as a non-profit started by Bob and Jan Salley. The Farm has a strong international focus, with interns who have trained and worked in 20 different countries, but the organization also has a great presence in the local community.
This past week I went out to The Farm along with three classmates, to meet up with one of the staff to get a tour, learn more about the organization, and have an opportunity to ask questions we might have. At WHRI we met up with Erin, who was very helpful in showing us around. From her we learned about the many partnerships that WHRI has with other organizations in the community, for example how they provide some food for Caritas, and the work that they do in educating children at schools in McLennan County about gardening and healthy eating. During the tour we saw the variety of services and educational experiences they offer. Aside from providing produce and items for sale and donation to the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, schools and other organizations, they provide individuals and groups with opportunities to learn for themselves (and their communities) how to grow their own produce and become informed citizens to the issue of food insecurity in America and around the world. Their service learning opportunity, LOTOS, or Living on the Other Side, gives participants an opportunity to, in a safe and educational setting, live an impoverished lifestyle, and Erin spoke about the progress livestock interns have made working with and caring for the goats on the farm. WHRI is funded through grants, donations, and selling produce grown at the Farm, and while they are not directly engaged in research, they collaborate with Texas A&M for the rice gardens project in Haiti, by providing the agricultural expertise.
Like all of the organizations and groups we visited and spoke to in Washington, D.C., collaboration is a key part of how World Hunger Relief, Inc. makes an impact on the issue of hunger. In fact, when asked about if and how WHRI measures their impact or determines their success, Erin mentioned that it is difficult to determine the exact impact WHRI alone would have on the community, as they take more of a big picture approach and look at what everyone, collectively does to help. Outside the front of the main building at WHRI, there are wooden plaques with names of their community partners, and Erin gave us a list of some coalitions WHRI is a part of, including the Urban Gardening Coalition, McLennan County Hunger Coalition, the Food Planning Taskforce, and the Food Policy Roundtable.
This collaborative approach of World Hunger Relief, Inc. reflects a very important part of their intervention strategy and an important point about how the issue of hunger can be solved. That is, that it takes more than providing the hungry with food, more than attempts to make food more available where they previously were not, more than food banks, more than this or that, one thing or the other. Through their own efforts and partnerships, WHRI works at every aspect of the food issue, from growing healthy food to selling it, educating youth, engaging in discussion, and creating an informed community to hopefully become active in food policy. "Food is the ultimate social justice issue," said Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas in A Place at the Table (p. 148), and as such it is important that we explore and understand all aspects of the issue, and for me personally, learning about the work that is done at WHRI has helped to ground the issue for me, literally and figuratively. The issues of social justice that I am passionate about all come back to the fact that we are all human, and that is reason enough for me to decide which side of things I stand on. With hunger it also has to do with our home, the Earth and its bounty, and how we chose to be in control of it, from the dirt in the ground to the positions we take when voting on bills and laws.
and now, the photos!