Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) is creating a new “agricultural hub” in Fort Worth in order to increase the reach they have in the region.
An 80,000-square-foot warehouse will soon supply fresh fruits and vegetables for families in need all across North Texas.
The Fort Worth City Council is in the process of approving $3 million of taxpayer money from the American Rescue Plan to help fund this project.
“We’re seeing just as many people right now needing support as we saw at the height of the pandemic,” said Julie Butner, CEO of Tarrant Area Food Bank. “It’s unfortunate. We just have not seen a reduction in people in need. And I think it’s directly attributed to this inflation that we’re seeing.”
“We are the second or third-fastest growing county in the United States, and we are now the 12th largest city in the United States,” she said. “So anytime you have that type of population growth, a subset of the population who is not earning a living wage is in need of our services.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Feeding America — the parent company of many Texas food banks — asked TAFB to be the region’s center for processing produce.
Because of its proximity to farmers and interstates, Tarrant County is an ideal location for this project.
“Our neighbors in adjoining states like Oklahoma – the food bank there has a beef backing facility. And in Arkansas, they have a chicken packing facility,” said Butner. “So, by bringing in excess produce, we can trade our produce for protein, which is also extremely important for those who are food insecure, and to their health and well-being.”
“Those who are food insecure don’t typically have access to fresh produce; it’s expensive, and it’s hard to come by. And this will ensure that our neighbors always have access,” she suggested.
TAFB is now working to purchase a warehouse directly across the street from its headquarters.
“Which is a miracle in and of itself because of where we are located,” said Butner. “Property is hard to come by.”
Purchasing and renovating the warehouse will cost about $15 million. Fort Worth and Tarrant County are providing $8 million to help cover these costs, in addition to $3.5 million from a Texas Department of Agriculture grant and $1.2 million from the Sid Richardson Foundation.
The produce hub should be operational within 9-12 months.
Today is North Texas Giving Day, and the TFAB, like many local nonprofits, relies on Giving Day donations to fund its operations.