The Dallas Examiner
“I was dying to get a chance to see this,” said an older Dallas resident as she eyed the fresh organic produce stretched across nine tables in the Friendship-West Baptist Church parking lot.
The woman was accompanied by three other consumers who joined in her fascination with a special emphasis on the crate of tomatillos, a Mexican husk tomato used for salsa, but spicy tomatoes aren’t the only thing that brought this group together. The shoppers either lived in the surrounding food insecure area or knew a family in a food insecure area who need the nourishment.
Southern Dallas is one the central locations for food deserts where residents live more than a mile from grocery stores or don’t have access to healthy affordable food choices. To provide a solution to this problem, Friendship-West partnered with The Harvest Project to supply nutritious food to Southern Dallas residents monthly on church grounds, located at 2020 W. Wheatland Road.
The ministry distributes a variety of food such as potatoes, pineapples, whole corn and broccoli every third Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon with families having the option to bring their own bags or using grocery bags available on-site.
“Part of what we do at the church is we’re really concerned about food justice,” said Danielle Ayers, the church’s minister of justice. “Not only is it about access to healthy food, produce and etc. but how do we make that available to our community.”
Over the past year, the partnership has successfully fed families throughout the area attracting up to 20 consumers within the first 15 minutes of opening..
“[The church] went on a day of training with us, learned how to pick up produce, how they had to distribute the food and decided within their church they wanted to start the program,” said Danae Gutierrez, Harvest Project co-founder.
In addition to Friendship-West, Harvest Project donates fresh produce to several other churches and groups in Southern Dallas who also provide food monthly: Warren United Methodist Church, Pan-African Connections and Oak Cliff Veggie Store at Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff.
The citywide initiative attempts to address food insecurity which could affect citizens’ health and create financial burden due to the steep price of healthy meal choices.
“Unfortunately, South Dallas is one of the food deserts here in [the city],” Gutierrez expressed. “So, one of our goals is to be able to provide those communities access to healthier food. Depending on where we live in the city, we don’t consider a certain part of the city a food desert, but we don’t realize there’s people who can’t afford healthy food or live near a grocery store but can’t necessarily eat.”
Community collaboration such as this could become a nearby safe haven for residents in low-to-middle income food insecure areas.
“This is a solution,” Ayers said. “ We know this doesn’t cover everything but this is our way of doing what we can as a faith community to then lift our voice and put our faith in action and say what it means for a church to be a solution to a problem.”