“Innovative Interventions in the Dallas Food & Job Desert Panel”

Wednesday- November 15th 3:00-4:40

At the Hunt Institute in Caruth Hall – Suite 206

Senior Research Fellow Dr. Owen Lynch will be hosting the National Communication Association Pre-Conference at the Hunt Institute on November 15th. The Pre-Conference will focus on urban communications with an emphasis on approaches to researching pressing issues facing global cities. One of the highlights of the event will be an open panel on Innovative Interventions in Dallas. The panel will feature local change agents presenting their unique models and organizations that address the food and job desert crises in Dallas.  

Chad Houser is the Executive Director and Chef at Café Momentum – a restaurant and culinary training program for juvenile offenders at Dallas County Youth Village. Café Momentum is a regionally recognized restaurant (Top Dallas Restaurant in 2016) and a national recognized organization that provides a transformative experience for its interns. Through a 12-month paid post-release internship program, young men and women coming out of juvenile facilities rotate through all aspects of the restaurant, focusing on life and social skills, with coaching and development. Café Momentum employs an entire case management staff, providing an ecosystem of support around their interns to help them achieve their greatest potential.


 Ryan Eason is the Manager of Community Relations and Strategic communications for Medical City Healthcare. Ryan created the program Kids Teaching Kids to educate students about healthy eating habits.  Local high school culinary students create healthy recipes for elementary students, while encouraging them to make their own healthier treats during a 21 day challenge. Finally, these high school culinary students create healthy kids menus (like mac and cheese with pureed squash) that can be offered in restaurants.  The program has brought a healthier lifestyle to tens of thousands of school children in north Texas. Ryan created the program four years ago, and it continues to grow each year thanks to his dedication and creativity. The Kids Teaching Kids program is sponsored by Medical City Children’s Hospital and the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association


Owen Hanley Lynch is an Associate Professor of Communication at SMU, and the Senior Research Fellow for the Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity in the Lyle School Engineering. Dr. Lynch is also the Executive Director of Get Healthy Dallas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the lack of healthy food options, adequate education, and economic development opportunities in South Dallas. In November 2017, he is launching a new initiative, Restorative Farms Through its many partnerships, Restorative Farms hopes to transform the South Dallas food and job desert into a vibrant source of food, employment, and opportunities for low-income Dallasites.  Though Stage 1 of the Restorative Farms project doesn’t formally launch until November 21st, it is already having great community impact.


Jennifer Eyer leads the Food in Schools Initiative for Children at Risk. Part of the Food in Schools program is the Universal School Breakfast throughout Dallas Independent School District. Universal School Breakfast dramatically improves access to healthy food for children, while increasing their attentiveness and classroom performance.  This program is coupled with an extensive outreach programming to educate other school districts across the state on strategies to implement universal school breakfast programs and to increase participation of schools. Children at Risk also educates and performs outreach on summer meal programs and, more recently, afterschool meal programs, assuring that school age children receive the daily nutrition needed for healthy, productive lives.


Drew Demler
 is the Manager for the “Errol McCoy Greenhouse on the Midway” and the head grower for the “Big Tex Urban Farms”.  Big Tex Urban Farms (aka “Big Tex) is a revolutionary mobile agriculture system in the heart of South Dallas’ Fair Park. Big Tex experiments with hundreds of raised beds and various space saving innovations that address urban gardening’s most pressing challenges. In the past two years, Big Tex has piloted an innovative program that addresses the barriers to healthy and accessible produce throughout South Dallas by partnering with community gardens and organizations in the immediate Fair Park neighborhoods as well as connecting with like-minded agriculture entities to work towards providing the South Dallas community with locally grown produce.