On Wednesday morning, the Tarrant Area Food Bank's RED Bus pulled into a lot in Fort Worth's Wesley community.
The bus is bright red, but RED is for 'Resources and Education Delivered'.
"These people are really, really in need," TAFB Community Resource Specialist Roy Rodriguez explained. "They don't have much, and they don't trust a lot of people.
The RED Bus is a one-stop shop to help people who live in food desert zip codes sign up for social services like SNAP and Medicaid, while also providing a small food pantry.
"Less than half the people who are eligible for these programs actually sign up," TAFB President and CEO Julie Butner said. "That's in part due to lack of access, so they don't have a transportation or they don't know where to find the resource that helps them to sign up for these benefits. And also it's in part due to a level of discomfort with disclosing that they are having food insecurity issues. By bringing the bus directly into the community were coming to them and where they live, so there's some comfort in that."
"It's a nightmare, and it's very frustrating," Sheila Strayhorn said about trying to file for assistance on her own. "Lots of anxiety. Lots of nights are very rough."
Strayhorn was referred to the RED Bus for help. Rodriguez spent about half an hour with each person who sat across from him looking to get help.
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"They feel special. They feel like they're loved. They feel like somebody cares for them," Rodriguez said. "So we're trying to care for them, and in the process, try to make them feel human."
The areas targeted by the RED Bus have lower life expectancies, due in part, to a lack of fresh, healthy food. The RED Bus will travel to those areas to make food and services accessible to those who need it.
"So help is on the way," Rodriguez said.
The RED Bus is made possible through a partnership with the City of Fort Worth and Kroger's Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation.
Kroger is covering funding and staffing for the bus over the next two years.
The city is helping coordinate with TAFB to figure out which neighborhoods to travel into based on income and food insecurity data.
The food bank expects the bus to help about 5,000 low income residents of all ages per month, making several stops in a single day. If you need help or need to connect with the RED Bus, click here for more information and to see the bus schedule.