Collaboration is the cornerstone of our work at the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. It’s in our name. It’s a part of every meeting we hold, every project we complete, and every evaluation we conduct. When we began as the Texas Hunger Initiative over ten years ago, collaboration was the very first thing we did, as we created a “Food Planning Committees,” which evolved into what are now Hunger Free Community Coalitions (HFCCs).
HFCCs operate under the basic principle that no one individual, sector, or organization alone can meet the challenge of food insecurity with any degree of effectiveness:
- Fundraising and development are vital to the work, but we can’t donate our way out of food insecurity.
- Public Policy is absolutely necessary to address systemic injustices of poverty, but legislation alone will not put three meals a day onto the plates of every child in our country.
- We need people giving their time and expertise to help the most marginalized, but volunteerism alone won’t end hunger.
- For some who struggle with poverty and hunger, more opportunities, resources, and education are needed. But job training and “self-sufficiency” programs, while important, are insufficient to meet basic needs of the millions of people in our country who struggle with low wages and underemployment.
With this premise in mind, HFCC’s bring together people and organizations from multiple sectors– Business, Religious, Governmental, Social Services, etc.– and implement action and asset-based, and research-informed plans for reducing rates of food insecurity in their communities. It is a model that continually evolves based on new information and can be replicated to meet any number of challenges facing our communities.
The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty consults with HFCCs and gives backbone support for many of their initiatives. One important resource we have provided for the past four years has been our HFCC Corps, a part of the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program. VISTAs have helped create coalitions, assisted in volunteer recruitment, asset mapping, and evaluation. We have seen the immense value of VISTAs to the work and have wondered what it may look like for VISTAs to be directly embedded within a coalition, working directly with leadership and members to help drive the movement further.
This has led to the creation of the AmeriCorps VISTA Food Security Initiative (FSI), which we are currently recruiting members for. We need VISTAs to serve within a Hunger Free Community Coalition for a year in one of 15 communities around Texas. We are also looking for an individual with prior AmeriCorps experience to serve as a VISTA leader in Austin for the FSI team.
Volunteers in Service to America (VISTAs) receive a living allowance, end of service awards, educational benefits, potential student loan forbearance and deferment, among other benefits. Most importantly, they get to work alongside numerous people and organizations devoted to making a difference in their communities. VISTA service is ideal for those taking a gap year after high school, recent college graduates, retirees, or mid-career professionals looking to give a year of their time and expertise to an exciting project.
More information on the AmeriCorps VISTA program can be found HERE.
Information on how to apply and the communities around Texas where you can serve can be found HERE.
To learn more about the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, visit our website at texashunger.org.