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2016 Dallas Hunger Summit Challenge: Eliminate barriers that limit access to healthy food

September 20, 2016
By KEN CAMP / MANAGING EDITOR

DALLAS—Improved access to healthy food means eliminating both geographic and economic barriers, speakers told the fifth annual Dallas Hunger Summit.

That involves making fresh fruit and vegetables available in the neighborhoods major supermarkets don’t serve, and it requires economic development initiatives and job training, they emphasized.

The summit, convened by the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions, explored policies and programs to fight food insecurity, particularly among children and senior adults. Sponsors included Dallas Baptist Association, Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas and the Texas Hunger Initiative, based at Baylor University.

Work in collaboration and cooperation

By working together, the private and public sectors, as well as the nonprofit and faith communities are making a difference in eliminating hunger in the United States, said Jeremy Everett, director of the Texas Hunger Initiative.

Everett praised the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions as “the best in the country” in terms of making a collective impact through collaboration and cooperation.

Continue reading here: https://www.baptiststandard.com/news/texas/19516-challenge-eliminate-barriers-that-limit-access-to-healthy-food

2015 Dallas Hunger Summit Engages Community Leaders

What do a private trust banker, a political science professor, an award winning public radio journalist and a Baptist preacher have in common? They were speakers recently at the 4th annual Dallas Hunger Summit organized by the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson.

Over 200 people attended the 2015 Dallas Hunger Summit held at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas during Hunger Awareness Month in September! Those who were there came from as far away as Lubbock and as nearby as next door. Why? They came to gain a greater understanding of the realities of food insecurity and the tangible opportunities to make a difference through partnership and collective impact.

Byron Sanders, Vice President for U. S. Trust, community advocate and all-round great guy, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. Active on the boards of multiple community organizations and committed to equitable communities, Byron was instrumental in leading us to understand the issue at hand.

This year’s Hunger Summit theme was Roots of Hunger, Growth of Partnerships, and Harvest of Opportunities. In exploring the Roots, to more effectively solve the problem of hunger and food insecurity, we heard from Dr. Timothy Bray, Director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research at UT Dallas. He laid the groundwork for the day, sharing the facts and figures that shape the poverty landscape in and around Dallas.  See Dr. B ray’s analysis here: Exploring the Impact of Poverty in Dallas.

Courtney Collins, journalist for KERA Media and reporter for the news series “One Crisis Away”, followed with real-life stories of families struggling with “asset poverty” and under-resourced neighborhoods. Her accounts helped us better understand how hunger and food insecurity exist. Glance at Courtney’s presentation here: One Crisis Away Hunger Summit Presentation 2015

Examining Growth provided the opportunity for us to go into breakout sessions and learn about the work being done through the Coalition’s five Action Teams and how more collaborators can help build on that work. This conversation continued over lunch.

Finally, in reaping the Harvest, Rev. Eugene Keahey transfixed us with his testimony and case study about what’s possible in the fight against hunger through partnerships and collaboration. His passion and compassion for the severely neglected community of Sandbranch, Texas touched everyone in the room. Learn about Rev. Keahey’s work in the Sandbranch community here: Keahey – Welcome to SandBranch

And yet, there was still more!  Following the Hunger Summit, interested attendees toured the Encore Park Community Garden, operated by The Stewpot. They saw first-hand the kind of innovative initiatives that are occurring in Dallas to reduce hunger and food insecurity.

Feedback indicates that the 2015 Dallas Hunger Summit successfully increased awareness and enlisted potential new partners for the continuing work that is needed to have a significant impact on the problem. We hope to see YOU in the trenches!

This post was written and contributed to the blog by Wyonella Henderson-Greene, Coalition Coordinator.

Free Summer Meals in Dallas

In the past, when I thought about children facing hunger in the United States, I would think about how to solve it in terms of what schools can provide: free school lunches, free school breakfast, and free after school meals served to kids staying for homework help or other after school activities. I think this is a fairly common thought process; after all, school is where most children spend the majority of their day. If the schools have the resources, why not look to them to help feed kids who may not get enough food at home? And there is no disputing the fact that the work that schools do in this arena is incredibly important. The Food Research & Action Center has put forth studies that have proven that programs that offer free breakfast to all children improve student achievement and behavior. After all, who doesn’t have an easier time concentrating and just generally feel better on a full stomach?

But there’s a large portion of the year when kids aren’t in school. And while there are kids who relish the coming of the summer months, many children face that time with dread. Because for kids that rely on free meals provided at school, those months they spend away means little or no access to food. As Margaret Lopez, Director of Nutrition at Dallas ISD Food & Child Nutrition Services, says: “The family resources don’t increase just because school is out and kids are at home.”

That’s where the Summer Meals program comes in.  Also known as the Summer Food Service Program, it’s a federally-funded USDA program that here in Texas is administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The TDA reimburses providers who serve healthy meals to children and teens in low-income areas at no charge. This summer, the USDA estimates that more than 200 million free meals will be served to children all over the country. To qualify for a free summer meal, you only need to be under 18 years old. There’s no need to bring identification or prove a certain level of income—if you need a meal, you get that meal.

The Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions’ Child Hunger Action Team is made up of some great organizations that have made it their mission to make sure kids don’t spend the summer hungry. That includes organizations who are working together to make sure all families are aware of the Summer Meals program and the sites where kids can get free healthy meals. According to Jessica Galleshaw, Director of Health Impact at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and co-chair of the Child Hunger Action Team, a great summer meals site is “a site to which kids want to go. These sites offer healthy and delicious meals that are appealing to kids, but also integrates activities and games. For many kids there is a stigma attached to accepting help such as a free meal, so it is important for sites to overcome this by offering more than that. It is much easier for a kid to invite his friends to the park for lunch and game of basketball than to invite them to the park for a free meal. Great sites are engaging and use their face time with kids to keep them active and learning in the summer time.”

Dallas ISD alone is planning 225 summer meals locations with about half of those open to neighborhood children for meals. There are more than 70 other organizations in Dallas County that are sponsors, including other school districts. Service starts in early June and can end as late as mid-August, but the length of time, dates, and days of the week when sites are open vary by location. To find the nearest summer meals site to you, text FOODTX to 877-877, visit www.summerfood.org or call 211.

According to No Kid Hungry, families say that on average their grocery bills are about $300 higher every month that the kids are home from school. This is an expense that some families just can’t handle, and they shouldn’t have to. Join the Child Hunger Action Team in spreading the word about the Summer Meals program so we can make sure that all Dallas kids get the food they need. To learn more about how you or your organization can help, contact Loretta Landry at Loretta_Landry@baylor.edu.

This post was written and contributed to the blog by Charlotte Johnson, communications coordinator for the Dallas office of the Texas Hunger Initiative. 

Spring Family Garden Project Kicks Off in Dallas

I have always been interested in vegetable gardening. The idea of growing my own food holds great appeal; not only could I save money at the grocery store, but I could look at a salad and know exactly where those carrots came from. I could feel proud knowing that I had grown them myself. But I’ve never lived anywhere with enough land to plant a vegetable garden, and that is a problem facing many individuals interested in growing produce. If you live in an apartment, or a house with just a small manicured front lawn, where do you put a vegetable plot?

This month, the Faith Community Action Team launched the spring season of its Family Garden Project. The project is a collaboration with family garden project presentation 5the Family Garden Initiative, an Ohio-based nonprofit that provides garden kits to low-income families at low cost, so that they can grow their own fresh produce. The garden kits include 8 GardenSoxx, mesh tubes filled with compost and nutrients that allow families to grow their own vegetables even when they do not have the land to create an in-ground garden.  The garden kits also include seeds, a watering can, a care guide and a recipe guide.

The project was introduced to Dallas in September of 2014, and results were studied and analyzed by Wendy Ortiz, an Emerson Hunger Fellow who served in Dallas for six months. Ortiz found that the project was a mixed success. Of the 29 families that were surveyed in the Fall, 20% were never able to harvest any vegetables. Only two families were able to harvest less than a cup full of collards, spinach and tomatoes, and no families were able to harvest any cabbage or cucumbers. Radishes proved to be the easiest vegetable to grow in the Fall, as eleven families were able to pick 5-10 radishes.

roundtwo1Even though they did not grow a lot of vegetables, virtually all of the families felt that the GardenSoxx empowered them to learn new gardening techniques, as well as teach their children about food production and responsibility. Ortiz compiled a list of best practices for caring for the GardenSoxx based on her observations. She recommended that sites utilize the knowledge of local gardening experts, make sure to plant according to a recommended schedule, choose plants that are easy to grow, and build a community by providing recipients with regular support and gardening information. Armed with these tips, the Faith Community Hunger Solutions Action Team decided to continue the project this Spring, determined to address problems faced during the Fall project and to see if the Spring project could be a success.

It began on Friday, April 10. The six congregations participating arrived at Sharing Life Community Outreach in Mesquite in the early afternoon and gathered around as Ruth Klein, a master gardener, explained best practices for caring for the GardenSoxx. She explained how to plant seeds in the Soxx and provided tips for general care. For example, did you know that watering the leaves of your plants contributes to the plant developing a harmful fungus? Only water the base!

After the training, volunteers helped load the GardenSoxx,
watering cans, seed packets and information booklets onto trucks, and the participating churches took the materials back to their congregations in anticipation of the next day, when the seeds would be planted in the GardenSoxx.

The next day, I drove out to Services of Hope, an education nonprofit that strives to help fifth graders in the Dallas area achieve academic excellence. They also work closely with the local community, and for this reason were interested in sponsoring the GardenSoxx. That sunny Saturday morning I met with Chelsea Knox, the Business/Office Manager, and Jonathan Jones, the Program Manager. They were just finishing up helping their volunteers from SMU paint their offices, and were just about to head out to deliver the GardenSoxx to participating families. They kindly agreed to let me tag along, and I followed their truck as we drove just a few blocks away and delivered the GardenSoxx to three different homes.

The GardenSoxx recipients were mostly families or senior women, and everyone was excited to receive them. Chelsea and Jonathan unloaded the GardenSoxx from the truck and arranged them on front lawns or on ready-made gardens, wherever the recipients indicated. Everyone seemed surprised that the GardenSoxx could be placed virtually anywhere. When they were fully unloaded, Chelsea took the time to carefully go through the care guides with the recipients, showing them step-by-step how to plant and take Harmony FGI 4.23.15-acare of their gardens. She then reminded them that there would be periodic support meetings where garden recipients could discuss their progress and ask
questions.

The first of these meetings took place ten days later, at lunch time on Tuesday, April 21. Even though only two of the five garden recipients were able to attend, Chelsea was positive about the experience, excited to discover that all five delivered gardens are right on schedule and that excitement among the recipients was still very high.  Another support meeting took place April 23 at Concord Church in southwest Dallas, where several more garden recipients discussed their progress. One gardener expressed interest in making pickles out of the cucumbers she grows, while another is looking forward to her collards.

As the project continues, there will be more support meetings and more check-ins. There will no doubt be some great harvests as the plants begin to grow—in fact, some have even begun see their okra start to sprout!

This post was written and contributed to the blog by Charlotte Johnson, Communications Coordinator for the Dallas office of the Texas Hunger Initiative. 

 

Making Urban Gardens a Reality in Dallas

The Urban Agriculture Action Team of the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions has been working together since May of 2014. At that first meeting, nearly one year ago, the team set a goal for itself: to change the Dallas city ordinances to allow for broader food production options.

Today that city ordinance work is garnering a lot of attention. If you haven’t already read about it in articles from the Dallas Morning News and Edible Dallas/Fort Worth, you may have seen the buzz all over social media; the Urban Ag team is taking Dallas by storm with the simple idea that people should be allowed to grow food to sell within Dallas city limits. The idea is called an Urban Garden, and it’s currently not legal to have one in Dallas. It is currently legal to have a community garden, where you grow food and eat it yourself or give it away for free, but the Urban Ag team wants to encourage community members to grow and sell food in their neighborhoods as a way to promote economic development and improve access to healthy food. The team has so far gained approval from the Zoning Ordinance Committee, City Plan Commission, and the Economic Development Committee of the City Council.

“The process has been exciting, really,” says Susie Marshall, chair of the Urban Ag team. “The fact that there has been positive interest concurrently from the City Council has made things a bit easier, as has the fact that we have been working the entire time with city staff. It has definitely been a community process.”

The Action Team’s proposed amendments would allow the sale of Urban Garden produce (off-site in residential districts and on-site in non-residential districts), as well as allow for aquaponics, aquaculture, and the raising of female chickens within city limits. Aquaculture is the cultivation, maintenance and harvesting of fish, and aquaponics is combining fish and plants together to grow food in a recirculating system without any loss of water.

On March 2, the City of Dallas Office of Environmental Quality along with the Office of Sustainable Development and Construction presented the Progress Report on the Economic Opportunities of Sustainable Food Systems to the Economic Development Committee of the City Council, which was met with approval. The committee voted to send the proposed amendments to the Dallas City Council, who will vote on the proposed changes at their meeting on Wednesday, March 25.

Anita Mills, gardening consultant and owner of Anita’s Arbor, is one of the many members of the team that has been a part of this process from the very beginning. “The Urban Agriculture Action Team is made up of people from every aspect of urban agriculture who were able to work together, settle any differences of opinion and come up with a coherent proposal for the city council to consider,” says Mills. “It’s been a tremendous experience. We have had to compromise on some items, but the main goal of providing good, healthy food to everyone in the city is our priority and I believe that the majority on the City Council supports that.”

There are over 40 stakeholders involved in this process, and they run the gamut from the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition and the WE over Me Farm at Paul Quinn College to the Garden Café and the Texas Honeybee Guild. With such a diverse set of players involved, it’s no wonder that the proposed amendments haven’t had any trouble gaining approval on their way to the final hurdle, the Dallas City Council itself.

To learn more about the proposed changes or how you can help support the team at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, contact Susie Marshall at susie@gleantexas.org.

This post was written and contributed to the blog by Charlotte Johnson, communications coordinator for the Dallas office of the Texas Hunger Initiative.