Spending a Summer with THI

This summer, the Texas Hunger Initiative – Waco Regional Office has two Baylor students serving as No Kid Hungry Youth Ambassadors. Keyanna Taylor and Steven Kuipers are providing support for and increasing participation in the Summer Food Service Program in Waco. They have really hit the ground running and are providing tons of creative energy to Summer Meals sites. They recently shared with Act Locally Waco about themselves and what they are learning this summer.


Keyanna Taylor is a Baylor University sophomore from San Antonio, Texas. She is studying public health on the pre-medical track.

I am passionate about learning how hunger and overall poverty impacts the health of communities and the individuals that make up these communities. I love being a part of the Texas Hunger Initiative and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign because it allows me to make a difference toward improving the health of children, adults, and whole communities from a unique angle.

Since being a Youth Ambassador, I have been exposed to a lot of different areas of Waco, and I have learned about many different organizations and efforts that work for the community. It has been so eye-opening to truly see the diversity of Waco. Before this experience, I thought Waco as a tiny town with not much going on. But I have learned that it is very large and active. This has intrigued me and made me even more excited about my role this summer, because now I feel a calling to give back to this community.

We recently visited the YMCA of Central Texas to see what its Summer Meals sites look like and to propose implementing some of the programs Steven and I are creating to increase meal site attendance. While visiting the YMCA, I got to see how many kids participate in the different camps and programs over the summer. I was surprised by the number of kids who participate in these programs. Would these children make it to meal sites if it weren’t for these programs here? Would they still be involved in physically and mentally engaging activities without the YMCA? The YMCA is a great example of how Summer Meals sites work alongside other organizations to impact the overall health of children. They have access to games and activities that keep their minds stimulated, and they are being physically active to also keep their bodies healthy. I now see hunger as being directly related to the holistic health of individuals.

My work at the Texas Hunger Initiative is a way for me to explore the connections between hunger and mental and physical health of individuals and their communities. I would like to encourage others in the community to actively seek out ways they can learn more about different organizations in Waco. I believe that efforts from all different avenues must work alongside each other to improve the health of all citizens. So whether it be volunteering at the YMCA, Caritas of Waco or visiting a summer meals site, there are many ways to improve the health and quality of life for all here in Waco.


Steven Kuipers is a Baylor University sophomore from Redding, Pennsylvania. He is majoring in economics and minoring in Chinese and religion. He also serves as a community leader at Arbors Apartments and is a proud member of the Baylor Men’s Choir.

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to travel with the Baylor Men’s Choir to sing and minister in Kenya. While there, I was taught a valuable lesson that I hope to bring to my work here in Waco. We traveled seven hours from Nairobi to the remote Pokot Village. Immediately after we arrived, we worked tirelessly to improve the living condition for the people there. We built water irrigation systems, painted classrooms, planted gardens, and even opened a medical clinic to treat the ill and infected. For nine hours, we served until the sun set and it was time to leave.

During our dinner at the hotel that evening, we shared some of our feelings about the day. Surprisingly, there was a common feeling among the group: a sense of hopelessness. We felt that even after all the time we spent working that we hadn’t even scratched the surface of the problems there: hunger, illness, and poverty were still going to be present in the village after we left. After hearing this, our choir director stood up and gave us some encouragement. He explained to us that attacking something as big as third-world poverty could not be done in a single day. He explained that this kind of thing takes time and consistency, and that we did our part faithfully. “You cannot do everything, but you can do something,” he said.

Those words continue to resonate with me as I think about my work here in Waco this summer addressing hunger. A lot of hunger in our community stems from the multi-rooted tree of poverty, and trying to chop down the tree by myself is an impossible goal. That is why it is not my responsibility to obliterate poverty in its entirety because I cannot do everything. But I can do something. For me, my “something” is addressing hunger. I find great contentment in doing my part here at the Texas Hunger Initiative because I realize that my work is part of a bigger picture of our community effort. Focusing on hunger allows other groups and organizations in Waco to specialize in their own areas. And everyone chipping in to do their part will be the effort that makes a serious impact on our city.

That is why I want to encourage you, the reader, that when you want to help your community, know that you alone don’t have to take down poverty. All you have to do is something. It can be anything, big or small, to address the cause. And when we have a community that collectively chips in to do its part, serious change happens in our lives and in our communities.

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