An effort by North Texas Healthy Communities to make fresh produce and healthy groceries more accessible to Tarrant County families is getting a major boost, thanks to a grant from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), with funds administered by Tarrant County. The Good For You Pantry program received ARPA funding to open its 11th location at Fort Worth ISD’s C.C. Moss Elementary this week, with nine more pantries slated to open throughout Tarrant County by the end of 2024.
Launched in November 2019 at Daggett Middle School, the Good For You Pantry program is directed by North Texas Healthy Communities, the outreach arm of Texas Health Resources that implements Blue Zones Project and other well-being initiatives in Tarrant County and beyond. Pantries are housed in schools and community centers and allow residents to select their own fruits, vegetables, and other healthy staples at no cost.
“Thanks to ARPA funding we can expand the Good For You Pantry program beyond Fort Worth and reach communities throughout Tarrant County,” said Matt Dufrene, North Texas Healthy Communities vice president. “We’re currently evaluating where the needs are greatest and working with our partners to bring healthy food options and other important resources to more families in our community.”
To help Good For You Pantry customers make the most of their groceries, pantries offer recipe cards, cooking utensils, and links to virtual cooking demonstrations. Shoppers can also take advantage of on-site cooking demonstrations and nutrition workshops, presented in partnerships with local chefs, nutrition experts, and culinary students.
“The research is clear: Healthy foods are linked to better health and overall well-being, especially for children,” said Dufrene. “Schools and community centers are trusted resources and wonderful partners in our efforts to eliminate barriers and make healthy choices easier and more accessible.”
Access to affordable, healthy food is a critical social determinant that can greatly affect physical and mental health outcomes, especially in children. According to county data, 22% of Tarrant County households and 36% of Dallas households have no vehicle and live more than a mile from a grocery store or supermarket; more than 800,000 people across Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, and Collin counties experience food insecurity; and more than 25% of children in North Texas are food insecure.
Traditional food pantries generally offer nonperishable, processed foods. The Good For You Pantry program is focused on supplementing those efforts with fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other healthy staples, often culturally relevant for the community each pantry serves. Some pantries also offer diapers and toiletries. Families choose the items they take home, just as when they shop in a store.
Each Good For You Pantry serves 50 to 75 families, and typically offers twice monthly shopping opportunities. To date, the program has distributed 127,835 pounds of produce, serving more than 25,000 people.
“C.C. Moss families and our surrounding community will truly benefit by having this pantry in our school,” said Charla Staten, principal of C.C. Moss. “As a Blue Zones Project Approved school, we are keenly focused on the health and well-being of our young scholars.”
In addition to C.C. Moss Elementary, pantry locations include these eight Fort Worth ISD schools: Alice Contreras Elementary, Carter Park Elementary, Daggett Middle School, M.H. Moore Elementary, Oakhurst Elementary, Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary, Versia Williams Elementary, and Wedgwood Middle School. Two other Good For You Pantry sites are at Fortress Youth Development Center and LVTRise Community Center in Fort Worth.
NTHC efforts to build a stronger, healthier food ecosystem also include Fresh Access, a program that distributes fresh produce at Fort Worth community centers. Other initiatives include funding and support for school gardens, support for farmers markets and urban farms, and Double Up Food Bucks, which enables Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit participants to double their savings on fresh produce at participating farmers markets and grocers. In addition, the Culled Produce Recovery Program, a partnership with local urban farms and grocery stores, gives new life to unsold produce. Blue Zones Project is a signature initiative and one of many led by NTHC to improve the health of the people in the communities served by Texas Health Resources.
Learn more about these healthy food initiatives at LiveLongFortWorth.com.
About North Texas Healthy Communities
North Texas Healthy Communities (NTHC) is the outreach arm of Texas Health Resources and invested in supporting community health improvement in North Texas through the delivery of innovative health initiatives focused on overall well-being. A signature program of NTHC is the implementation of Blue Zones Project in Fort Worth, a community-led well-being improvement initiative that was brought to the city by Texas Health Resources and other partners to support its mission “to improve the health of the people in the communities we serve.” Blue Zones Project works with businesses, schools, community leaders, and residents to support longer, better lives. Since 2015, more than 95,000 people and 367 groups and organizations have worked together to improve well-being. Fort Worth is the nation’s largest certified Blue Zones Community. The American Hospital Association and its partners highlighted Blue Zones Project in presenting Texas Health Resources the 2022 Foster G. McGaw Prize, which recognizes U.S. health care organizations committed to community health and well-being.
The American Rescue Plan Act (APRA) was signed into law on March 11, 2021, to provide additional financial relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding allows state and local governments to make strategic investments in long-lived assets, rebuild reserves, and cover temporary operating economic shortfalls.