The Dallas Examiner
“We have 40 food deserts in Dallas County. It’s absolutely unimaginable that we have communities that don’t have access to food,” said Daron Babcock, founder of Bonton Farms.
Food deserts are widespread in the Southern Dallas area and have been a persistent issue in the Black community. There have been various initiatives throughout the community to try to tackle food insecurity, including on the Paul Quinn College campus.
Paul Quinn’s We Over Me Farm was established at the college’s two-acre football field in 2010 and has donated 15 percent of its produce to local food pantries and another 15 percent to community members in the Highland Hills area.
The Farm and Good Local markets developed a partnership and launched a new farmer’s market on campus May 25 in an effort to create solutions to solve food desert issues after receiving a $10,000 federal grant.
“The long term goal is to ensure that every member of our community has access to healthy affordable produce, and a farmer’s market is just a piece of that,” said James Hunter, farm director and PQU’s farmer’s market chief liaison.
The new market is open to the public and accepts Lone Star Card/SNAP/EBT for produce. It will feature healthy food choices such as fresh fruits, vegetables, honey, baked goods and other goods from several local vendors such as Bonton Farms and others at an affordable price for consumers.
“We currently don’t have electricity at the site, so there are no meat, cheese, or eggs vendors,” Hunter said. “We’re looking for more vendors who are willing to come out and sell some of their produce.”
Food markets and local gardens like Paul Quinn’s can have a positive impact on Southern Dallas and spread awareness on several underlying issues.
“I don’t know if people fully understand the consequences that [food insecurities] bring on a community,” Babcock said. “[Food] is a foundational part of a greater injustice that happens to folks living in the inner city mostly of color. We need to look at this as a whole issue and not just a food issue.”
The effects of not having access to fresh foods create scenarios that are life-threatening to children and adults.
“For us who are in Dallas County, we have double the rate of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and childhood obesity than the County we’re in, and those statistics are people’s lives,” Babcock expressed.
Heart disease and high blood pressure are one of the leading causes of death among Black people, accounting for approximately 30 percent of deaths among Blacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The studies also state that conditions can be greatly improved with proper nutrition.
“Everyday we are losing more and more people that we can’t recover,” the Bonton Farms founder said. “Those people have lives to live like you and I, and the fact of the matter is because in the lottery of life they’re born into some of these communities and not due to anything they did or deserved. It’s just the way that it happened that they don’t have the resources they need to thrive as a person.”
Moreover, healthy diets heavily influence academic performance. With obesity being prevalent among Texas minority children, particularly young Black girls, the CDC reports that the lack of adequate consumption of specific food such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products is linked to lower grades among students.
“What we put in our bodies has a profound impact on what we are able to get out,” Babcock explained. “Our kids down here our so smart and have so much potential but are lacking the nutrients to fuel their bodies so they can thrive in school.”
In the future, Hunter said he would like to expand the university’s initiative to help solve the different variables associated with food deserts.
“Getting more farms and gardens in Highland Hills, collaborating with Save-A-Lot, and educating our neighbors about healthy eating practices falls on a collaborative effort with a bunch of organizations and institutions to work to alleviate the issues that come along with being a food insecure areas,” he said.
The farmer’s market is open every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the college’s football field, located at 3837 Simpson Stuart Road.