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In an effort to highlight other nonprofit voices and viewpoints, we are honored to present this Q&A we had with David, President and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank. United Way Capital Area collaborates often with his organization in a variety of ways, including providing hundreds of volunteers and advocating around hunger and poverty in Central Texas.
A little about David: he joined the Food Bank in March 2008 as President & CEO. David was born in Baltimore, Maryland and moved with his family to the Houston area in 1974. David went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University where he currently serves as a member of the Former Students Advisory Board for the Department of Political Science.
In 2004, David became the Executive Director of End Hunger Network-then a small food rescue organization. Since 2004, End Hunger Network has received national acclaim as one of the most effective and innovative organizations of its type in the United States. Growing from seven employees in 2004 to thirty six in 2007, End Hunger Network serves as a national model for food rescue and human service serving the most vulnerable members of the greater Houston community.
I. Your organization intentionally chose the word “nourish” over “feed.” How do your food distribution and hunger ending strategies ensure that people are not simply fed, but are nourished? And, how does nourishing someone benefit not only the individual client or family of CAFB, but the entire community?
CAFB sets the standard among food banks nationwide in providing healthy, nutritious food to those in need. In 2007, CAFB was third in the nation in distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables behind only New York and Houston. We believe that just providing food, regardless of the quality of the product, is insufficient and not consistent with our core values. We must make high-quality, healthy foods available and treat all of those we serve with dignity and respect.
Beyond providing the dignity of a healthy meal, there are real challenges in Texas that need to be addressed by all organizations providing food to low-income clients. One in five Texas children are medically obese and, not coincidentally, one in four lives in poverty. By making a firm organizational commitment to provide healthy, nutritious food for hungry Central Texans, we continue to have a positive impact on this growing and destructive trend.
II. Some people might ask: is ending hunger in our community a realistic, achievable goal? Won’t we always have people in Central Texas who need CAFB?
I have a quote in my office from Dom Helder Camara that says, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.”
Food banks have spent too many years feeding the hunger line and not enough time seriously asking why the hunger line exists. We live in a country with the capacity to feed the entire world, yet hunger exists in nearly all communities. I refuse to believe it is acceptable for hunger to exist in our country. Yes, there will always be people who struggle to make ends meet or are challenged by hardships. From time to time people will need to reach out for emergency food assistance, making our work critical to a healthy community. That said, there should always be enough food to feed themselves and their family. Nobody in our nation, state or community should be forced to go without food.
There are a few important things anyone can do to help end hunger in our community. First, embrace the core belief that in a community as blessed and resourced as ours, hunger is unacceptable. Once you believe that completely and without exception, you should act on that belief. You can give the gift of time, talent, passion and treasure to the cause. Learn about hunger, and challenge those who believe hunger doesn’t exist in our community. Educate your lawmakers, and demand they support legislation that removes barriers to assistance, and support organizations working to change the status quo. When making a financial investment, make sure your gift will have maximum impact – be a smart investor. Get started and passionately pursue a hunger-free community. The solution is there – it takes all of us to make it happen.
IV. You moved here from another Texas city—Houston. What are your observations of the nonprofit communities in Austin and Houston? Any differences that surprise you?
I like to tell folks I moved to Austin from Houston because I can’t stand traffic. Houston and Austin are two planets sharing the same state. During my time in Houston, I was able to achieve great things for children, families and seniors in need, and I continue to draw on those experiences. That said I came to Austin to help change the face of hunger relief and create the model for the next generation of food banking. The talent, energy, imagination and resources necessary to shape that new model are plentiful here. I continue to be impressed with the talent and vision of my colleagues leading other innovative and exciting organizations. The more the local social sector breaks down the barriers that keep us from strategically working together, the quicker we can collectively make the lasting and systemic changes that will forever change Central Texas for the better.