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Expanding Food Access—and Building Community—in Southern Dallas

United Way’s Southern Dallas Thrives and Empowering the Masses partner to open a first-of-its-kind Community Market.

November 6, 2023

Last month marked an inspiring moment for the communities of Southern Dallas.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, our North Texas neighbors came out in force to celebrate the opening of the new Community Market, the latest venture from Empowering the Masses. The market will address food insecurity in the surrounding residential areas, while also helping to foster a vibrant community in a location that has experienced historical disinvestment.

This exciting initiative is a partnership of Empowering the Masses, United Way’s Southern Dallas Thrives initiative and Goodr Co., which delivers hunger relief solutions. By expanding the availability of nutritious, quality food in Southern Dallas, this work advances our mission to improve access to education, income and health so all North Texans can thrive.

Read on to learn more about the significance of Southeast Dallas’ newest food access location, our longstanding partnership with Empowering the Masses and how together with our partners we’re providing vital investment opportunities to the Southern Dallas community to create lasting change and measurable impact.

A Historical Location—with a Bright Future

The location of the new Community Market brings an additional layer of significance and impact for the families of Southern Dallas.

Samuel Boulevard is named after the esteemed Dr. William Samuel, a renowned physician, civic leader and philanthropist. Unfortunately, the street is burdened with more than a dozen liquor stores within a 3-mile stretch, plus check-cashing stores and other businesses that don’t necessarily reflect the priorities of the community.

But today Samuel Boulevard is becoming a hub for positive transformation, bringing a sense of hope and excitement to our neighbors in both Southern and Eastern Dallas. Empowering the Masses’ Community Market is the first of its kind on Samuel Boulevard, providing crucial resources to uplift the most valuable asset in Southern Dallas: its residents.

Fostering Community in Southern Dallas

Tammy Johnson, founder and executive director of Empowering the Masses, wanted to enable more of her neighbors to break out of the cycle of poverty. She began Empowering the Masses as a grassroots organization focused on providing basic needs services in a way that cultivates a sense of understanding and dignity for community members.

As part of their work, Johnson and her team established a small community pantry to improve food access in Southern Dallas; however, they quickly went from providing free, nutritionally balanced meals to 35 families per month to now serving more than 1,400 families per month. Before long, it was clear that Empowering the Masses needed a larger space to close the gaps of food insecurity of many Southern Dallas households.

Johnson says the new Community Market will enable her organization to make an even greater impact in the Southern Dallas communities than she would have thought was possible.

“With this expansion, we aim to extend our reach even further, providing essential resources and a higher-quality shopping experience to the people of Southern Dallas,” she said. “This grand opening represents our commitment to fostering a vibrant and thriving community, where every individual has the opportunity to receive the vital services they need with dignity.”

In addition to its work to improve food access, Empowering the Masses also offers innovative medical training and certification programs that provide pathways to sustainable and lucrative healthcare careers, empowering individuals to enhance their earning potential to foster resiliency and self-sustainability. They also collaborate with local health organizations to offer health screenings and related services to their neighbors.

César Fotso, a previous client who is now a training partner of Empowering the Masses, started out as a volunteer for the organization. He found out that they were offering free phlebotomy technician classes, so he enrolled. After passing the national certification exam, César is now working in one of the biggest hospitals in North Texas.

“Through Empowering the Masses, I earned complete financial independence, and I’m able to feed my family,” he explained. “Empowering the Masses is an organization where they place human beings at the first level as a priority—they place the dignity of people first. The love they use to care for people, to help people to get back on their feet, is just incredible. I just feel loved, I feel happy and I feel encouraged to come back and help others to get back on their feet as well.”

Collaborating for Greater Impact

United Way embraces unity as a key part of our strategy. We partner with corporations, community organizations, school districts, foundations, individual change-seekers and more, leveraging a collaborative approach to yield the greatest results.

Our collaborative strategy includes targeted impact initiatives, such as Southern Dallas Thrives, through which we work with corporate partners to make targeted investments and collaborate on place-based programs that prioritize community-centric impact.

United Way also partners with local community organizations that engage directly with the communities in which greater investment and equity will have the most impact. Additionally, through our Social Innovation Lab, we provide vital investment, mentoring and resources to social entrepreneurs with bold new ideas for improving education, income and health in our community.

Working together, we drive progress toward our community-wide Aspire United 2030 goals to ensure that more children are graduate high school ready to succeed, more workers can find can keep good-paying jobs and more families can access the health resources necessary to thrive.

Empowering the Masses illustrates the power of these collaborations.

Our partnership with Empowering the Masses began in 2020 by way of Southern Dallas Thrives, in an effort to address many of the emergency needs faced by Southern Dallas communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. From that initial investment and subsequent partnership, Empowering the Masses continued to broaden its areas of focus to include workforce development programs and expanded its pantry operations to serve more families.

As Empowering the Masses scaled its work with Southern Dallas Thrives, the organization continued to grow and our partnership expanded. In 2021, Empowering the Masses become a United Way community impact partner. Johnson then went through United Way’s Social Innovation Accelerator and was named “Social Innovator of the Year” at its culminating event, The Pitch. The Community Market is the next evolution community-based partnerships, and it is poised to have a significant impact in Southern Dallas.

Southern Dallas Thrives Creates Lasting, Holistic Change

As a partner on the Community Market initiative, Southern Dallas Thrives is supporting Empowering the Masses’ expanded impact in Southern Dallas, increasing the number of neighbors and residents they can serve.

Created in partnership with PepsiCo/Frito-Lay North America, United Way’s Southern Dallas Thrives Initiative provides vital investment opportunities within Southern Dallas communities to create lasting, measurable impact. The initiative takes a holistic approach to improving access to education, income and health by addressing the multifaceted challenges faced by under-resourced and underinvested communities in Southern Dallas. Through collaborative efforts with organizations like Empowering the Masses, United Way and our partners are positively influencing the economic trajectory for many of our neighbors.

“Improving access to organizational support and investments in the impact areas of education, income and health is our key focus and priority within Southern Dallas Thrives,” said Ashley Douglas, vice president of the Southern Dallas Thrives Initiative. “Our partnerships with place-based organizations like Empowering the Masses have enabled us to expand how we address challenges, identify collaborative opportunities and economically impact our most valuable but vulnerable communities and sectors. Amplifying the work of partner organizations while providing targeted investments that directly focus on the southern sector is a key component of our work, and it shapes how we view and implement community-centric trust-based philanthropy.”

Over the years, Southern Dallas Thrives’ food access efforts have intentionally focused on reducing barriers to food accessibility and opportunity with dignity at the forefront. As our partnership with Empowering the Masses and Goodr continues, together we will continue to provide opportunities for Southern Dallas neighbors to thrive.

Join Us in Expanding Food Access

At United Way, we recognize that food insecurity is a community problem, and it requires a community-wide solution. We invite you to join our movement and help expand access to quality, nutritious food.

As we approach the holiday season, there are two easy ways to get involved:

  • Give: Investing in United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is one of the most impactful ways to create positive change right here at home. When you make a donation today, your gift can help fund initiatives like Southern Dallas Thrives and the Social Innovation Accelerator, which support the work of grassroots organizations and social entrepreneurs who are making a measurable difference in their communities. Click here to give now.
  • Volunteer: This month, you can fight food insecurity by volunteering with us to assist at a local food pantry. Click here to learn more.

Invest in Lasting Change

Together, we can ensure all North Texas have the access and opportunity to thrive. Your gift can support programs like Southern Dallas Thrives and the Social Innovation Accelerator.