Dallas County commissioners are bringing back a vital program this week.
The county set aside $500,000 for the Food Pantry Assistance Program and opened up the application process last month. It provides a one-time grant, up to $15,000, to organizations who have been distributing food to families in need during the pandemic.
However, food pantries reported confusion in the application process and qualifications that were too strict. Initially, the program was only open to groups located outside of the city of Dallas but within the county. It also required that the organization be established on or before March 2019.
But many organizations started up in 2020 in response to the pandemic. The county also said numerous organizations who may have been eligible for the program only discovered it after the programs’ application portal had closed.
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Because of this, county officials said only a third of all applicants met the eligibility requirements.
On Tuesday, Dallas County commissioners approved modifications to ensure that the program can help more organizations providing food pantry services in Dallas County.
Among other changes, the March 2019 stipulation was removed and the application has been opened up to include organizations in the city of Dallas.
Here are the new eligibility requirements:
- Be current in the payment of all Dallas County and local taxes
- Must be physically located in Dallas County with a physical Dallas County mailing address
- Demonstrate food assistance provided, or other costs incurred, from March – September 2020 due to the Covid-19 public health emergency.
Food pantries that are interested in applying for financial assistance can go to www.dallascounty.org/cares-act/.
Organizations can also reach out to a member of the Dallas County CARES Team at CARES@dallascounty.org or contact 214-875-2184 for help.
This is welcome news for newly established efforts like the People’s Fridge, which sits in front of the Pan-African Connection Bookstore on Marsalis Avenue in Oak Cliff.
"I just did it because I personally know people who are going through a tough time right now during COVID and are having to make really tough decisions between paying for their medicine, or mortgage or feeding their family,” said founder Jasmine Coleman.
It’s a community fridge where those who need food can take some, and those who have food can leave some.
"I think a lot of people right now are suffering in silence, they don't really know the resources that are around them. They've never had to use those resources before," Coleman said. "Something like these community fridges have been invaluable. They can get what they need with no questions asked."
She just launched a second fridge in DeSoto over the weekend and she's looking for another location to start a third.
Coleman’s fridge effort one of the many groups that started up this year in response to the pandemic and said she is happy to hear that the program has expanded to give these organizations a chance for assistance.
At about $250 a week per fridge, she's realizing just how much work, money and effort it takes to meet the demands from families caused by the pandemic.
"A little more paperwork than people understand, it's a lot that goes into it as you're trying to establish yourself as an entity,” Coleman said. "Even though you have people who are giving individual donations and certain restaurants or businesses that we work with that are able to contribute, having that assistance on a larger scale will definitely help us to make sure that we can make something like this as accessible as possible.”
The Oak Cliff People's Fridge is located at 4466 S. Marsalis Ave., Dallas. The operational hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. However, the fridge is open to access or drop food at all hours of the day.
The DeSoto People's Fridge is located in HeyyHealer at 324 E Belt Line Road, DeSoto. The hours are Thursday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday to Wednesday by appointment.