By Thomas Chandler
Food insecurity is one of the biggest challenges to good health in our community. Food insecurity is associated with poor health outcomes in adults and children alike, from developmental delays to asthma to chronic disease to obesity and more.
Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Hospital and Ascension Providence Hospital have noted food insecurity as a major health issue in our community in their respective 2022 Community Health Needs Assessments.
Greater Waco is reorganizing how it approaches this important issue. Using the elements of collective impact, Prosper Waco has partnered with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty (BCHP) to facilitate a new coalition – the McLennan County Hunger-Free Community Coalition. The coalition’s goal is to bring together community partners to help create a community-wide vision for ending food insecurity in McLennan County and to focus our collective efforts on strategies to support that shared goal.
The coalition’s layout is based on the four pillars of food insecurity. These pillars are:
Availability – referring to the availability of food in our area, while also taking into account diversity, quality, production, and distribution;
Utilization – focusing on how an individual handles food after it is in their possession, with a strong focus on food literacy;
Access – focusing on physical and economic factors that impact an individual’s access to food; and
Stability – referring to consistent access to food, including infrastructure that supports food security.
The Hunger-Free Coalition is building four action teams that will meet monthly to address community priorities and to identify strategies to meet those goals. The action teams are:
Food Distribution & Pantries
Health and Nutrition
Urban Agriculture and Waste
The group is establishing a Steering Committee that will meet quarterly to review the action teams’ goals, establish priorities, and assess outcomes.
We are also recruiting two leadership groups – a Community Leadership Council and a Faith Leadership Council. These councils will meet twice yearly to ensure there is buy-in and support at all levels of our community, from the grassroots to grasstops. Involving community leaders in that capacity will allow them to share their insights as we together work toward the purpose and initiatives of the coalition. These councils will help to focus and align the work of the coalition with the broader scopes of community work. Prosper Waco would like to thank our community partners who participated in the first round of action team meetings in November and December.
We were encouraged by the robust attendance and the clear community support for working together in this way. Many innovative ideas and new community connections were made in those initial convenings, and there is great hope about the work ahead.
The steering committee and leadership councils will convene early in 2023.
Thomas Chandler is a health intern with Prosper Waco.