Food Insecurity in North Texas | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

How United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Tackles Food Insecurity in North Texas

Imagine for a moment that you don’t know when your next meal is coming or what will be on the plate. Now imagine that fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t readily available in your neighborhood.

This is what’s known as food insecurity, or, as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines it, “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” When someone lives in a food desert—a part of town where residents have limited access to grocery stores or other options for obtaining a variety of healthy and affordable food—that access becomes even more limited. COVID-19 only exacerbated the problem, especially for those who lost work or were already living paycheck to paycheck.

While these struggles exist among far too many Dallas families—often daily—three different United Way of Metropolitan Dallas initiatives are  providing nutritious meals to our North Texas neighbors on an ongoing basis. Southern Dallas Thrives and the North Texas Summer & Supper Council address food insecurity directly, while Just Keep Livin enables young people living in food deserts to develop healthy eating and exercise habits.

The programs represent just a few of the ways United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is working toward its Aspire United 2030 goals, the organization’s North Star for driving lasting change in education, income and health—three areas that are all directly impacted by food insecurity and food deserts.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the programs and how they support North Texas families.

North Texas Summer & Supper Council

Of the 3 million Texas children who receive free or reduced school lunches, only 14% access the a summer meals program, ranking the state 48 out of 50 in reaching children in need. In the Dallas Independent School District alone, 89% of students qualify for free or reduced-cost meals during the regular school year, which means close to nine out of 10 kids lack access to a regular, nutritious meal each day during the summer. These are dismal statistics that the North Texas Summer & Supper Council,created by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the North Texas Hunger Initiative, is working tirelessly to change.

In the most recent year of programming, the council helped local organizations serve more than 2.8 million meals to 50,000+ local children throughout the metro area.

Southern Dallas Thrives

Developed in partnership with the PepsiCo Foundation and Frito-Lay North America, United Way’s Southern Dallas Thrives initiative focuses on education, income and health simultaneously to improve people’s lives in the southern Dallas community. One component of the program involves providing families with nutritious meals in the city’s largest food desert. Other goals of the program are to increase quality preschool education, prepare high school students for college or a career, and provide supportive services and workforce development training to women—all with the goal of creating lasting change and demonstrating a measurable impact on the people living there.

In 2020, during the height of the pandemic crisis, Southern Dallas Thrives served more than 60,000 meals in collaboration with PepsiCo’s Food for Good, while also providing food resources to more than 2,500 community residents.

Just Keep Livin

By empowering high schoolers to make healthy choices and lead active lifestyles, the Just Keep Livin Foundation offers students the tools they need to create a brighter future. The program provides after-school wellness and fitness activities that encourage exercise and healthy eating habits. It also nurtures concepts of teamwork, gratitude and community service that contribute to a pay-it-forward attitude that lifts everyone up.

To date, Just Keep Livin has served more than 500 students, 96% of whom improved or maintained excellent attendance, while a remarkable 99% improved their grades and improved or maintained excellent school behavior.

Be part of lasting change

As North Texas continues to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to end food insecurity and eliminate food deserts. After all, everyone needs reliable access to nutritious food to thrive, whether they are a young child attending school, an adult applying for a good-paying job or an entire family trying to stay healthy.

Let’s work together to ensure every one of our neighbors has access to the nutrition they need. You can join the movement in three ways:

Give
Advocate
Volunteer
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ABOUT UNITED WAY OF METROPOLITAN DALLAS

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United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is a community-based social change organization that puts opportunity in the hands of all North Texans. Working with our determined supporters, we lead the charge to improve education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. We invite all change-seekers in our community to Live United to achieve lasting results right here at home.

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This article was published on: Aug 23, 2021