Each week, the Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) provides more than 460,000 nutritious meals to Texans in need, making it the primary provider of food assistance for 13 counties in North Texas. To help sustain that kind of impact, TAFB turns to a variety of partnerships including innovative collaborations with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).
In 2012 TAFB began partnering with TDA in the federal Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), which is administered in Texas by TDA. As a partner, TAFB distributes FMNP vouchers for farm-fresh produce that families participating in the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) can use at farmers markets. TAFB distributes the vouchers at five WIC clinics in the Tarrant county area during the summer months.
In order to make it more convenient for families, TAFB coordinates with Texas farmers to bring their local produce to each of the five WIC locations. Farmer Jack, a TAFB partner who leads a farmers’ association, will travel as far as San Antonio to gather produce from different farmers, and then will return to Tarrant County to distribute the food at the sites. As a result of these efforts, TAFB is able to provide hundreds of families with freshly harvested produce.
In 2016, TAFB enhanced its FMNP collaboration by bringing Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites to the five WIC clinics with farmers markets. This program also represents a partnership with TDA, which administers SFSP, a program that allows children 18 years old and younger to receive free meals during the summer months, when meals that they would normally eat at school are unavailable. Transportation is often an issue for those in need so making summer meals and the farmers markets more accessible at the same location is important for families. The program typically serves about 500 summer meals at each distribution location.
Combining the TAFB farmers market with the summer meals program has proved to be a win for everyone. Families win because parents go home with farm-fresh produce, while children go home feeling nourished and energized from a wholesome meal. The program is also a win for Texas farmers like Farmer Jack, whose local business is supported. TAFB’s innovative farm to summer program shows that improving access to local food can be an effective way to reduce hunger in communities.