Efforts to Nourish the Dallas Food Desert

Several efforts are underway to nourish the Dallas Food Desert, vast areas where full service grocery stores are more than a mile away from people.

Dallas city officials plan a ribbon cutting Wednesday for an expanded food bank program at the Martin Luther King Community Center.

Several agencies are teaming up to supply food weekly instead of monthly.

"It's like one of those thousand piece jigsaw puzzles. You see all these little pieces but when you put them all together it makes a beautiful picture," said Anga Sanders with the group 'Feed Oak Cliff.'

Her organization supports many efforts including the community garden at St. Luke's Presbyterian Church on Singing Hills Drive in South Oak Cliff.

Sanders said the lack of access to fresh produce and meat has serious consequences for people, especially children.

"If a child's brain is not fed properly, if it's not given the proper nutrition at early ages, that affects their ability to perform in school. That affects their likelihood of dropping out. That affects their likelihood of being able to get a decent job, to be able to move to a better area. So, it is literally a life and death situation," she said.

Her organization plans to open a non-profit grocery store in one of the under-served Southern Dallas neighborhoods.

The American Heart Association is working with the non-profit City Square to raise money for another non-profit grocery store in the Glendale Shopping Center on South Marsalis Avenue at Ann Arbor Avenue.

"We need to go where there is need certainly, but we also need to go where there is a community with sufficient income to sustain the store," Sanders said.

The City of Dallas offered $3 million several years ago for any store that would open a large full service grocery store in the food desert areas. The money could have been split with three locations but no company accepted the offer.

In 2016, a smaller 'Save A Lot' grocery store received nearly $2.8 million in city support to open at the corner of Simpson Stuart Road and Bonnie View Road in what was a food desert area.

The store recently changed hands and became a stand alone 'Save U More' store.

Manager Rodney Wiggins said his store tries to cater to neighbors, many of whom do not have cars.

"In order for this to work, it has to work for all of us. So we have to do our part," Wiggins said. "A lot of people are scared to come to this area. This area needs to be brought up."

Customer Willie Hunt said she appreciates the neighborhood Save U More store that saves her from making a much longer trip to feed the five great grandchildren she is raising.

"It's good. It's nice. I love it," she said. "I think it is unfair to not have good quality food."

Sanders said all of these efforts represent progress in nourishing the food desert but more needs to be done.

"There has to be a collaboration between residents, between the community and the city. And we have to come up with realistic solutions to this problem because it's life threatening," she said.

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