Dallas is a paradise for food lovers, but it’s also a deeply unequal one. At least one in six people in North Texas are food insecure, and the rate of food insecurity in Dallas County is 47 percent higher than the national average.
What’s more, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a steep increase in food insecurity, meaning that hunger relief charities like the North Texas Food Bank are seeing unprecedented demand: Over the past year, the NTFB has increased its food-distribution output by 45 percent.
Though restaurants are back in a big way following the rollback of statewide COVID-19 restrictions — with some diners forking out big bucks for gold-coated steaks served by a certain Instagram star — it’s clear that many people in the Dallas area are still struggling to fill their bellies.
In addition to large, well-funded operations like the North Texas Food Bank and the Catholic Charities of Dallas, many grassroots organizations are working across the Dallas area to alleviate food insecurity. These groups see the issue not just as a problem of food insecurity, but of food justice.
Food justice, in a nutshell, is a movement aimed to guarantee healthy food as a human right and eliminate structural barriers to healthy foods. This often means promoting efforts to improve access to local, sustainable, and fresh foods in underserved neighborhoods, whether through free food distribution, community gardening programs, or food justice advocacy.
If you’re one of those one in six North Texans in need of food, or if you’d like to help some of them out in your spare time, consider participating in some of the following events and organizations.
Led and founded by DACA recipient Danaë Gutiérrez, The Harvest Project distributes free boxes of fresh produce and vegetables twice a week, every week. Volunteers are regularly needed to sort and package food boxes. For those with funds to spare, each purchase of a Wholesome Wholesale box funds four free boxes of food for families in need. Follow them on Instagram to stay up to date with the group’s latest distributions.
Founded by a mother-and-son team, Bettie and Ples Montgomery, the Oak Cliff Veggie Project provides free vegetables to the Oak Cliff community on a regular basis and conducts community gardening sessions at various locations across Dallas. Volunteers are regularly needed for its Cultivate the Community events. Follow the Oak Cliff Veggie Project’s Facebook page for details on volunteering and donations.
Founded by two military veterans, Stephen Smith and James Jeffers, F.A.R.M. provides hands-on farming education and “dirt therapy” to returning veterans. Every week, volunteers help grow food at its urban farm, which sits just outside of Deep Ellum. Follow them on Instagram for updates on volunteer opportunities.
GROW North Texas works to promote the growth of farmers markets, urban farmers, community, and gardens. GROW also offers food and cooking education. Volunteers are regularly needed to support its WIC Farm Stands — where WIC recipients can use the organization’s vouchers for fresh produce from local farmers — as well as at its Owenwood urban farm.
Led by Darcia Houston, a leading Black urban agricultural entrepreneur, Soil Sistahs is a membership network of primarily Black female agriculture entrepreneurs who have banded together to support the group’s collective goal of expanding access to healthy foods. Annual membership is $120. The organization accepts members of all races, genders, and creeds.
Founded by Jasmine Coleman, the People’s Fridge is another mutual aid group led by a woman of color that seeks to combat food insecurity. The People’s Fridge now manages three fridges across the Dallas area, which provide free food to anyone who needs it. The concept brings together people with extra funds and food and those who are in need of something to eat. Volunteers are needed to regularly restock the fridges when they run low on food, conduct outreach, and help with refrigerator maintenance.
Founded in 2019 by Marcus Russell, Davante D. Peters, and Dawan Shockley, CIVN provides a range of essential services to underserved communities in Dallas. In Highland Hills, they manage multiple community gardens. They also conduct mobile food pantries and door-to-door delivery for homebound individuals. Follow them on Facebook to hear about the group’s latest events and programs.
Founded by the Shockley Family, in memory of the late Skip Shockley, a member of the originally Dallas chapter of the Black Panther Party, the Skip Shockley Foundation operates a number of programs aimed at supporting those facing food insecurity. The Vanguard Survival Community Program conducts free food giveaways at underserved apartment complexes in various neighborhoods across Dallas. They’ve also created a new community garden, the Wyatt-Shockley Garden, in a vacant lot in South Dallas that used to be the site of the family’s home before it was destroyed in a fire. The organization’s food-focused work is meant to create self-sustaining and empowered communities. Volunteers are regularly needed at the group’s community garden, as are donations for its various food giveaways and feeding programs. Follow on Instagram for updates.
Founded by Vanessa Wilmore, Feed the People Dallas is a Black/Latinx, female-led collective that provides mutual-aid to local communities throughout the DFW metroplex. The collective runs a Free Grocery program for those facing food insecurity and a Community Care program for the homeless. It also collaborates with other mutual aid organizations and regularly promotes food justice events on Instagram.
The Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions Care brings together a group of organizations and individuals that are working to reduce food insecurity and promote equitable access to healthy food across Dallas. The coalition focuses across five areas — Child Hunger, Faith Community, Public Policy, Senior Hunger, and Urban Agriculture. For those interested in supporting local community gardens, the coalition maintains a Community Garden map for the Dallas area.
The North Texas Food Bank is the largest provider of free food to those facing food insecurity in the Dallas area. In addition to the organization’s mainstay food support programs, it also regularly runs mobile pantries across the Dallas area. For those who want to lend a helping hand, NTFB’s free food programs regularly need volunteers.
The Catholic Charities of Dallas manages many fixed and mobile food pantries for those in need in the Dallas area. In order to receive assistance, individuals must sign up as a client first.
Many churches and other small nonprofits, such as St. Philips, operate their own food pantries across Dallas. Check each pantry’s schedules and eligibility requirements prior to seeking assistance. Those interested in volunteering should contact the organizations that manage the pantries.