I Was Hungry
Cultivating Common Ground to End an American Crisis
Hunger is one of the most significant issues in America. One in eight Americans struggles with hunger, and more than thirteen million children live in food insecure homes. As Christians we are called to address the suffering of the hungry and poor: "For I was hungry, and you gave me food . . ." (Matthew 25:35). However, the problems of hunger and poverty are too large and too complex for any one of us to resolve individually.
I Was Hungry offers not only an assessment of the current crisis but also a strategy for addressing it. Jeremy Everett, a noted advocate for the hungry and poor, calls Christians to work intentionally across ideological divides to build trust with one another and impoverished communities and effectively end America's hunger crisis. Everett, appointed by US Congress to the National Commission on Hunger, founded and directs the Texas Hunger Initiative, a successful ministry that is helping to eradicate hunger in Texas and around the globe. Everett details the organization's history and tells stories of its work with communities from West Texas to Washington, DC, helping Christians of all political persuasions understand how they can work together to truly make a difference.
Foreword by David Beckmann
1. Disaster: What I Learned from a Hurricane about Tackling the Hunger Disaster in America
2. Broken Streetlights: Finding Our Commonality amid Crisis
3. A Priest and a Prostitute: It Really Does Take Nearly Losing Your Life to Find It
4. The People: Finding Citizenship in the Right Kingdom
5. The Desert: Moving from Mind-Sets of Scarcity to Abundance
6. Organize: How a Shared Response Can Create Scalable Solutions to Our Communities' Greatest Social Challenges
7. The West Side: Once You Engage a Community, Fear Cannot Hold Out against Love
8. Politics: Searching for Consensus amid a Landscape of Contention
9. Together at the Table: The Texas Hunger Initiative's Story of Organizing a Systemic Response to Hunger
10. Justice: Our Cultural Moment to Find Common Ground for the Common Good
"Jesus taught us that how we treat the least among us is how we treat him. 'It was me,' Jesus says very directly. Jeremy Everett, a respected advocate for the hungry, does what few do well: he connects faith to public policy. This book doesn't just address theoretical policy issues but shines a bright light of faith on how we as a nation and a church can overcome hunger. This book shows us how to apply faith to public policy."
Jim Wallis, New York Times bestselling author of America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America; president of Sojourners; editor in chief of Sojourners magazine
"An urgent, biblically grounded summons to Christians to end the tragedy of contemporary poverty in America. Everett uses gripping personal stories to show both the wrenching agony of that poverty and also how it is quite possible to dramatically reduce it. Biblical. Factual. Practical. Engaging."
Ronald J. Sider, author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger
"Nothing beats the influence of a great story, and Jeremy Everett has a powerful one to tell. His insights into the issues of poverty and hunger, his journey to the founding of the Texas Hunger Initiative, and his combination of humility and faithfulness make him a captivating author. By the end of this book, readers will understand that they have a mentor and colleague in Jeremy who will help guide their own efforts to make their communities hunger free, as well as a friend who will help them guide their own personal spiritual journeys for a more just world."
Ambassador Tony P. Hall
"I Was Hungry is a call to action for one of the most pressing issues facing our nation. In one of the most polarizing eras in our history, Everett points us toward unity for the common good. May it be so!"
Frank Wolf, former member of the US House of Representatives
"Jeremy Everett's I Was Hungry is a beautiful account of what our country needs more of: a strong commitment to the common good, all through the lens of love. Jeremy's words capture your attention from the start, and the pages are filled with enthralling stories that bring to life the realities of those struggling with food insecurity and poverty. It is God's voice that I hear throughout this poignant book. Hunger and poverty are problems we can make a serious dent in, and Jeremy helps us see how our mental models, perspective on God's rich abundance in our world, and a 'with, not for' plan of action can move us toward this goal as a nation. This is a must-read, and my hope is that we all allow it to speak to us, to challenge us--despite our many different walks of life, political persuasions, and perspectives--to participate together in 'bending our universe towards justice.'"
Heather Reynolds, managing director, Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities, University of Notre Dame
"Jeremy Everett is one of the most talented people I have ever worked with and one of the finest people I know. He is also one of the country's leading experts on reducing food insecurity. This book is Everett at his best: drawing on his wealth of knowledge and experience, telling stories, and bringing people together to reduce hunger and poverty. Part prophetic call to action, part how-to manual--with plenty of encouragement as we face the challenges ahead--this book is deeply theological, profoundly practical, and intensely hopeful."
Victor J. Hinojosa, associate professor of political science, Honors Program, Baylor University
"I watched Jeremy Everett emerge as a force for change for the poor and hungry in my own community. Several of the stories in I Was Hungry come out of his experiences in the neighborhood we shared. From encounters with broken pipes and broken people, I saw this young man come to personally understand the complexities of poverty. His persistent drive to serve the disenfranchised has made him a national voice for the poor and hungry. Jeremy understands the importance of systemic change, solidarity among disparate voices, and power from below that challenges superficial ideals from above for confronting one of America's most heinous social issues. Now, years later, I have the joy of walking alongside this prophetic voice who is making a difference for the hungry of our neighborhood and nation. Like any good prophet, he lives out his calling in his own streets."
Jimmy Dorrell, founder, Mission Waco/Mission World; pastor, Church Under the Bridge; president emeritus, Texas Christian Community Development Network
"Jeremy Everett does more than preach about the spiritual values our country so desperately needs--he lives them. The honesty and authenticity with which he shares his journey yields inspiration for living a life that matters on every single page. If it feels like the solutions to hunger and poverty have always seemed to elude, it won't feel that way after you've read this book. It is a blueprint for a more inclusive, prosperous, and compassionate America."
Billy Shore, founder and executive chair of Share Our Strength
"We need this book! There are good books telling us why Christians should serve the poor, but they often leave one asking, 'How?' And there are good books that tell how a person or ministry has served the poor, but one wonders, 'Would that really work in my community?' In I Was Hungry, we learn how to actually serve the poor by seeing how serious Christians are doing just that in their own context."
Todd L. Lake, vice president for spiritual development, Belmont University
"There is a considerable difference between being aware of our neighbors' needs and taking practical action to meet our neighbors' needs. Jeremy Everett has devoted himself to bridging the gap through his leadership with the Texas Hunger Initiative, his own personal acts of service, and now through his words in I Was Hungry. For those wanting to participate in the daily service of praying 'on earth as it is in heaven,' I Was Hungry is a good place to begin."
Andrew Greer, singer/songwriter and cohost of the Amazon Prime show Dinner Conversations with Mark Lowry and Andrew Greer
"Jeremy Everett makes us see that 'other America' made up of needy people that is often invisible to those of us who live in our so-called affluent society. More important, he explains and demonstrates from his own experiences what we can do to minister to those who live there, whom Jesus called 'the least of these.' This book challenges us to act."
Tony Campolo, Eastern University
"Confronted with America's hunger disaster--and its cultural, institutional, and spiritual causes--Jeremy Everett asked, 'How can I help?' The Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) became his answer. I Was Hungry tells this remarkable story as well as the story of the gospel remarkably working its way through the world. Readers of this terrific book will find themselves asking, 'How can I help?'"
Jonathan Tran, associate professor of philosophical theology, Baylor University
"In this book, which is full of practical wisdom and insight, Jeremy Everett shares what it looks like not only to address hunger but also for Christians to partner together with their neighbors for the common good. Anyone who is interested in loving their neighbor, in feeding the hungry, and in being the church in and for the world should read this book. Everett is one of my heroes, and the stories and insights here capture much of why this is true."
Myles Werntz, associate professor of Christian ethics and practical theology, Hardin-Simmons University
"[A] persuasive debut. . . . Mining his years of experience working on crisis relief and within chronically impoverished communities (primarily in Texas and Maine), Everett tells of massive efforts he was involved in to coordinate food supply chains and demonstrates the power of working together. . . . Everett does no hand-wringing, and instead intersperses his personal stories with research and practical solutions for addressing hunger and poverty. . . . Everett's book will appeal to Christians looking to give back to their community, as well as any reader interested in the plight of America's poor."
"Everett argues that hunger in the United States can be eliminated in our lifetime. Drawing upon the experience and expertise gained from decades of anti-hunger advocacy, Everett outlines why a collective and coordinated response to hunger is needed--and why, as Christians, this is a call we can't ignore."
"Everett has been an advocate of the hungry for more than 21 years. This book couples his experience with data. The result is a compelling vision for churches to address hunger in their communities. . . . Data aside, the highlight of I Was Hungry is Everett's ability to tell a gripping story. Everett's accounts animate the data, putting flesh and bones on numbers that are otherwise easy to ignore. His stories portray the heartbreaking, long-term implications of food insecurity. While the details he relates are tragic, Everett never gives in to despair. Rather, he unrelentingly echoes the hope that we can eradicate hunger in the U.S. . . . Everett offers practical and tested models for local churches to begin addressing hunger in their communities. . . . Reading Everett's book reminded me of Jesus' parable in Luke 14, where the master invited all--the poor, the vulnerable and the broken--to his table. With that image in mind, I can scarcely think of anything more spiritual than giving all a foretaste of that feast."
"The book draws on a lifetime of experiences, both in seeing poverty and hunger firsthand in neighborhoods across Texas and in coalitions and partnerships created to feed hungry people. . . . With some 40 million Americans living in some level of food insecurity, ranging from health affected by undereating to meals missed on a regular basis, hunger is a major national problem, but one with solutions. I Was Hungry shows the perspective of a life rich in hands-on experiences. . . . I Was Hungry serves in part as a road map for others looking for ways to address hunger in their neighborhoods."
"It may sound far-fetched, but Jeremy Everett believes that hunger can actually be eradicated. Everett has extensive passion and experience in the realm of combating hunger. . . . In the book, Everett lays out a hunger-free community campaign. . . . It delves into deeply held misconceptions about the poor and hungry. . . . Everett also presents scriptural and theological arguments to inspire people of faith to lead or join collaborative efforts to eradicate hunger."
"A timely and much needed contribution to our on-going national dialogue over the growing numbers of Americans (especially children) that go to bed hungry every night. . . . A very highly and desperately needed addition to community and academic library collections."
Willis M. Buhle,
Midwest Book Review