On the World Hunger Relief, Inc. farm in McLennan County, just outside of Waco, TX, it is time to harvest a round of lettuce, radishes and turnips. A small group of interns from as close as Waco to as far-flung as New Zealand take turns harvesting, cleaning and packaging the vegetables. The produce will be sold at the Waco farmer's market and will also go towards ensuring that low-income families in the community have access to fresh, healthy food.
The World Hunger Relief, Inc. is a Christian organization committed to alleviating food insecurity and hunger through sustainable agriculture, transformative education and community partnerships. It is also a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering recipient, using the funds Texas Baptists churches give to share Christ’s love as they accomplish their mission.
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One of their most unique programs is the Produce Prescription Box, a unique way of distributing fresh produce to low-income families. Six years ago, Waco Family Medicine did an evaluation of its services and realized that half of its over 46,000 patients needed treatment for ailments caused by a lack of proper nutrition. Waco Family Medicine works primarily with low-income families, many of whom struggle to afford nutritious foods such as produce.
“If they had access to and were eating healthier food, the illnesses they were struggling with would go away,” Jonathan Grant, executive director of World Hunger Relief, Inc., explained.
So, the clinic approached the farm and asked to partner with them to create the Produce Prescription Box. The farm grows the produce, boxes it up into family-sized parcels and delivers them to 6 of Waco Family Medicine’s clinics. The clinics then distribute the boxes to patients with vitamin deficiencies and other nutrition-based illnesses. There are also instructions for preparing the ingredients in each box.
World Hunger Relief makes about 150 boxes a week. They also distribute some of these boxes to churches, who hand them out through their food pantries.
This year, the organization is going a step further. The patients who receive boxes will be divided into cohorts of 12-15 people, where they will meet with representatives from the farm, the clinic and local churches.
“We want to do more than just distribute food; we want to engage our community in a way that we see each other as neighbors,” Grant said.
During these meetings, World Hunger Relief volunteers will teach cohort members how to cook nutritious meals using the vegetables they were given, and they will also teach them how to grow their own urban produce gardens.
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While the interns harvest the crops, across the farm a large field trip of second-graders are learning about urban gardening and the importance of food security. They giggle as they line up to see the chickens and point excitedly to the goats in the pen next door.
Education is another key component of the World Hunger Relief farm. In addition to educating the families who receive prescription produce boxes, the farm also welcomes in schools from around the area and interns from around the world to learn about sustainable farming.
During their field trips, children will learn about urban farming, healthy eating practices and the struggles many families face to feed themselves daily.
Meanwhile, the farm has also become a hub for people from around the world who want to learn more about training others in sustainable farming practices. Interns have come from Pakistan, Haiti, and, most recently, New Zealand. These interns are trained and then dispatched worldwide, and World Hunger Relief has sent out former interns to five continents.
James, an intern from New Zealand, explained that his family had already been farming for themselves for over five years, but he wanted to learn more about how to teach those skills to others. So, his entire family moved to the farm, where they learn how to help low-income families start their own farms. James explained that everyone should have the opportunity to provide healthy food for their families, regardless of their income or location. He hopes to be able to spread the skills he learns at the farm to many others.
“We’ve been doing this for ourselves for a few years, and I want to learn how to help other people be healthy, people that really need it,” he said.
During their time at the farm, interns help grow and assemble the Produce Prescription Boxes and other produce that is distributed throughout the wider Waco area.
Grant explained that the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering is one of the vital ministries that keeps the World Hunger Relief programs going. The Hunger Offering disperses funds through partners to over 100 hunger relief and development ministries across Texas and around the world.
“We’re incredibly grateful for the Hunger Offering,” Grant said. “It’s easy to forget in our communities of abundance that folks are hungry in our own communities. And so the Hunger Offering allows us to engage that community, and it allows us to see one another as partners and help meet the needs of one another.”
To learn more about the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering and how you can make an impact, go to hungeroffering.org.