Laredo, Texas spearheads city-wide book initiative to combat hunger and literacy

LatinaLista — The saying “food for thought” has two literal meanings in Laredo, Texas thanks to the efforts of three dynamic women educators.
These three women, Beverly Herrera, Carmen Escamilla and Annie Treviño (no relation that I know of to Latina Lista) have created a city-wide annual festival called One City, One Book.
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The Food for Thought Foundation logo represents how things in life are interconnected and always have a way of coming back to each person.
The premise for One City, One Book is easy enough — designate one book for the entire city to read. But with a population of over 221,000, it’s a challenge to get people to actually participate.
Yet, since these women have dedicated their professional lives to motivating young people to pick up a book to read, motivating a whole city is right up their alley.
The women knew that Webb County, home to Laredo, suffers from a 30 percent poverty rate. Eighty-three percent of the children in the public schools receive free or reduced lunches and 4 out of 10 kids go to bed hungry.
The women wanted to tie the two issues together of improving literacy with easing local hunger.

We believe that hunger is a huge obstacle in promoting literacy. First, we must feed the body. We hope that with full stomachs, people will then be ready to fill their minds.

Adopting that statement as their mission, the three women formed the nonprofit Food for Thought Foundation: Feeding the Body and Fueling the Mind.


Once a theme and a book are decided, the women create city-wide discussions and events for the people to attend. In addition, participants must donate cans of non-perishable foods. Only by attending two activities — book discussions and can donations — , can the people receive certificates that get them a ticket into the grand final event of hearing the author speak in person at the local civic auditorium.
Beverly Herrera, president of Food for Thought Foundation, tells Latina Lista that last year’s event was a huge success and netted over 10 tons of food. Of course, a lot of the success has to do with the book and its author.
Last year, the theme was hunger and intolerance. The book was All But My Life by author and Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein.
At the two public-speaking events where Klein spoke about her Holocaust experiences, Herrera says both venues were filled to capacity.
“We had the security guards and maintenance people, who also had read the book, stand in the back of the rooms saying that they just wanted to see her,” said Herrera.
Herrera and her colleagues are hoping for the same success this year. Though the official announcement doesn’t take place till Monday, Aug. 3, with the event starting on Aug. 15, Latina Lista has learned that this year’s themes are family and immigration.
The book chosen to illustrate these themes, and which has been chosen as the city-read, is Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario.
Nazario is a longtime friend of Latina Lista and there’s no doubt that this book will inspire people to read and give greater thought to two of the most important issues facing a large portion of today’s Latino community.

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