Thursday afternoon Tarrant Area Food Bank launched its first branch location in Parker County. The 28,000 square-foot will serve not only as a food bank, but a spot for programs to help people learn how to cook and food nutrition.
Tarrant Area Food Bank West , located at 112 Winner's Circle in Weatherford, is equipped with a distribution center, a commercial kitchen, food preparation area and outside community garden.
"We’re really excited about our satellite facility," said Julie Butner, president and CEO of Tarrant Area Food Bank. She said their main facility in Fort Worth is at max capacity.
She, along with staff, volunteers, local and state politicians cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially open the location Thursday afternoon.
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The new location will allow them to serve seven of their 13 counties in rural and remote areas.
"It will increase our efficiency to our over 40 partner agencies that help support us and support the community so that people who are hungry have access to food," said Butner.
The $6 million facility also has a food pantry called the Mission Market, which was presented by H-E-B grocery stores, and feels like a mini grocery store.
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"This is a shopping experience for neighbors who are hungry, they get to come in and see what they want and what their food preferences," said Butner
The food on the shelves are color-coded with a guide to make healthier choices. It's part of the Supporting Wellness at Pantries (SWAP) program. Items marked green, stand for choose often, like a fruit or veggie. Yellow is choose sometimes and red means to choose rarely. Usually, items that are high in sugar, sodium or fat, such as desserts fit the red category.
"I'm just getting canned goods mostly,can get here and don't have to buy at the store," said Leeann Jackson of Weatherford who came to shop Thursday afternoon.
Jackson said she was picking up food from the Tarrant Area Food Bank West because of the soaring food prices at the grocery store.
"Me and my husband are both retired, so this helps us out to have a little money left over to pay the bills," said Jackson.
The 8.5% inflation rate is impacting food, housing and other necessities for people across the country. Butner said the food bank is feeling it too and it has increased their operating costs.
“It’s also impacting the grocery stores and distributors that donate to us because they have supply chain issues, so they cannot donate as much product to us, that coupled with the fact that our neighbors in need are dealing with increased prices on the very, very basic necessities like food, gasoline, rent and utilities," said Butner.
She also said government subsidies that were there to support the food bank during the pandemic are going away, which combined with the rising inflation is something they're paying attention to.
They continue to see more people show up, and Butner believes there's several factors behind that.
"We are seeing a sustained rate of about 40% to 45% more people in need of food than pre-pandemic," explained Butner. "The height of the pandemic it was about 80% but we're really leveling out and seeing this 40% to 45% increase in the people who need our support. We think it's inflation, but we also think it's just the general population growth in Tarrant County and in Parker County."
Volunteers like Mitch Daniels echo the same thing, they're seeing more folks show up.
"I’m out here Thursday nights and we get a mobile food giveaway from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and every week we see it growing and growing," said Daniels who has volunteered for more than a year.
The TAFB said in total it feeds around 540,000 every year.
They are currently looking for more volunteers.