Many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving every year by gathering with their family and sharing a hearty feast. As such, it seemed an appropriate time to discuss the issue of food insecurity, which Feeding America defines as, “a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2019, 10.5% of all U.S. households (more than 35 million Americans) “were either unable to acquire enough food to meet their needs, or uncertain of where their next meal might come from.” The pandemic has only exacerbated this issue of food insecurity, with the number of U.S. households affected more than doubling this year.

Here in Dallas, the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) is one organization working to help alleviate the hunger that many families are currently facing. Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, on November 14, 2020, NTFB held its “fifth and largest mega-distribution of food during the coronavirus pandemic” at Fair Park. The Storehouse of Collin County is another local organization providing Thanksgiving Food Boxes for families in need.

So how can we as a society address the many root causes of food insecurity?

About a month ago on October 21, 2020, Incubator@SMU and United Way of Dallas’ Social Innovation Accelerator hosted a roundtable discussion about tackling food insecurity through social innovation, moderated by SMU Meadows Professor Dr. Doric Earle. The Stanford Social Innovation Review defines social innovation as, “a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.” Each of the individuals who participated in this panel has developed creative, sustainable solutions to address the problem of food insecurity, specifically in Dallas, Texas. Below is a short description of each of their efforts with links provided to read more.

Chad Houser of Café Momentum

Café Momentum, a nonprofit restaurant opened by chef Chad Houser in 2015, provides a 12-month paid, post-release internship program for kids coming out of juvenile detention. Together with case managers and licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), Café Momentum works to provide these young men and women with a comprehensive ecosystem of support. They address basic needs such as proper housing, healthcare, and access to ample food to ensure stability. The LCSWs also offer services addressing anger management, trauma recovery, and abandonment. The program has a recidivism rate of 15.2% compared to 48.3% for the state of Texas as a whole.

Daron Babcock of Bonton Farms

Bonton Farms is an urban farm founded by Daron Babcock and located in South Dallas’ Bonton neighborhood. Bonton is a food dessert, “where 63% of residents lack personal transportation and the nearest grocery store is a 3-hour round-trip bus ride away.” Instead, community members are forced to resort to processed foods. This has serious health implications. “Bonton’s cardio-vascular disease rate is 54% higher than that of the city of Dallas. Diabetes is 45% higher. Stroke 61% higher. Cancer 58%.” Bonton Farms ignites hope in the community by growing organic food, employing community members, and providing career mentorship, stable housing, and financial education.

Brad Boa of Restorative Farms

Restorative Farms is a self-sustaining, nonprofit farm system started in 2017 by Brad Boa and Dr. Owen Lynch. Through the seedling farm at MLK Community Center and the Hatcher Station Training Farm and Community Garden, Restorative Farms “provides certified vocational training, local jobs, and affordable financing, while producing healthy food in a sustainable manner.” The organization also sells GroBoxes, with seedlings sourced from its farms, to help fund their operations. Restorative Farms is a proud recipient of the American Heart Association’s 2020 Foodscape Innovation Awards.

This Thanksgiving, as we express our gratitude for the food on our table, let us consider how we can support one of the many organizations right here in the DFW area that are working to tackle the issue of food insecurity.

To read more about Hunter & Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity’s work to develop future-focused solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, please click here. For the latest news on the Hunt Institute, follow our social media accounts on LinkedInFacebookTwitter, and Instagram. We invite you to listen to our Podcast called Sages & Seekers. If you are considering engaging with the institute, you can donate to the work, or sign-up for our newsletter by emailing huntinstitute@smu.edu.

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