C.C. Moss Elementary Principal Charla Staten knows some families at her school struggle to put food on the table, let alone something fresh and healthy.
“We know that our parents have to decide whether or not they’re wanting to provide fresh fruit and vegetables or pay rent,” Staten said.
With parents wrestling with these tough decisions and food insecurity, C.C. Moss Elementary recently opened a “Good For You” pantry. Full of shopping families during its recent grand opening, the pantry makes fresh produce and healthy groceries more accessible to C.C. Moss parents.
The pantry, directed by Texas Health Resources’ North Texas Healthy Communities/Blue Zones Project, helps parents fill their shelves at home. The C.C. Moss location, at 4108 Eastland St., Fort Worth, Texas, 76119 is the 11th “Good For You” pantry in Tarrant County.
The program launched in November 2019. Pantries are housed in schools and community centers. Families select their own fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy staples for free. Pantries also offer recipe cards, cooking utensils and links to virtual cooking demonstrations.
“We’re layering in nutrition education,” Dufrene said. “It’s giving them access to the food, but it’s also helping them know how to eat it, and then layering in the behavioral change that we hope people eat more of that long term.”
The program plans to open nine more “Good For You” pantries by the end of 2024. An American Rescue Plan Act-backed grant from the Tarrant County government is funding the expansion.
Breakout: What is the American Rescue Plan Act?
The American Rescue Plan Act is a trillion dollar stimulus bill meant to help state and local governments recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Fort Worth received $173 million in federal funding.
Within Fort Worth ISD alone, over 20% of families live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Blue Zones Project data shows around 800,000 people struggle with food insecurity across the Metroplex’s four counties.
“That’s a staggering number,” Dufrene said.
Dufrene sees the “Good For You” pantry program as one way to bring that number down.
“Our vision is that everyone throughout the region has access to healthy food and at the neighborhood level,” Dufrene said.
Dufrene and the pantry program’s main focus is in delivering access. While people must have enough food to eat, they also need access to healthy options.
Access to affordable, healthy food is a determinant that can greatly affect physical and mental health outcomes, especially in children. For families who live near C.C. Moss Elementary, accessing fresh, healthy food can be tough — and expensive.
LaSheika Mayfield is a counselor at C.C. Moss Elementary, coordinating the school’s pantry program. With inflation causing groceries to cost more, she sees the pantry as a need for the school’s community.
“Because of the area that we live in, as well as our demographics, we are a high-needs campus, so we do have some of our families that need additional support,” Mayfield said.
Nearly all of C.C. Moss Elementary’s students — who are almost entirely people of color — come from low-income families, according to the Texas Education Agency.
The pantry’s support is never limited, Mayfield said. Families take whatever they can get, and the pantry never limits how much they take.
“Being a counselor, I have had families that needed help,” Mayfield said. “For them to be able to just come here, when we are a community school, most of our kids are within walking distance, it’s really good for our families.”
For some C.C. Moss families, the pantry may be the deciding factor in having a meal.
Staten, the principal, echoed Mayfield. Schools are the perfect places for community pantries, Staten said.
“Parents sometimes feel ashamed that they have to ask for help, and so they want to go to a place where they feel like they’re not going to be judged,” Staten said. “So why not the school? Let’s make it convenient for our families, because they can’t drive across the city, but they can drive kids to school.”
Disclosure: Texas Health Resources is a financial supporter of the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.