By Becky Volk
Social Media Specialist, Tarrant Area Food Bank
Food, what does it mean to you? Experiences throughout our lives shape the way we think and feel which, in the end, makes us who we are. Every answer to this question is unique due to our own personal journey.
To some, the thought of food allows them to recall a time in their childhood when family—grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins—gathered together for a special occasion. Most likely they volunteered, or were volunteered, to help in the kitchen with the preparation of a big meal to feed everyone.
The menu didn’t include childhood favorites like grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese or Hamburger Helper. Instead it included dishes that had been passed down through generations. Depending on where their descendants came from, dishes may have included items like pickled pigs feet, red beans and rice, chitterlings (or chitlins), menudo or any other traditional “delicacy.” While these foods may not have sounded good to a child, they held a special history with the adults in the room who did not mind sharing their stories or long-practiced traditions before sitting down to dine on the meal before them.
Those at Risk
TAFB, through its network of over 300 Partner Agencies provided access to nearly 25 million nutritious meals in the past 12 months. Throughout our 13 county service area, 461,000 people received food assistance. One in six households includes at least one adult who has served in the United States Armed Forces. One in eight individuals are seniors over the age of 60. Three out of 10 individuals are under the age of 18.
These individuals share a very different experience of what food means to them.
Food, Education and Employment
TAFB serves more than 50,000 unique individuals in a typical week. We provide food and resources to those at risk of hunger throughout our service area by way of our Food Distribution Programs, Food for Kids Programs, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Fifty percent of client households are currently receiving SNAP benefits. We work hard year round to provide our neighbors with the food they need to maintain their health, grow their families and lead an enriched life.
Offering educational and employment opportunities is just as important to us. Nutrition education through our hands-on Cooking Matters program and TAFB’s Community Garden program lead the way to providing healthy meals for those in need of food assistance. Empowering individuals in every community with the knowledge and tools to grow produce for themselves and their neighbors is the goal of our Community Garden program.
Our Community Kitchen is a 16-week culinary job training program for men and women of all backgrounds. During the last two weeks of the program, students have the opportunity to participate in an internship at a local restaurant or another culinary venue. Eighty-five percent of graduates are placed in jobs in the food service industry.
In 2015, more than 25,000 volunteers provided 85,000 hours of their time to support TAFB by sorting and weighing food, packaging and delivering food, teaching and volunteering in various learning programs and supporting Team TAFB.
Food Brings People Together
Throughout history we learned how to grow food, harvest food, reap nutritional benefits from food and enjoy food together.
Thanksgiving is one of the most celebrated holidays in our country and is generally thought of as a holiday to share food with family and friends and be thankful in spirit. For some, the Fourth of July brings to mind the excitement of watching fireworks after spending the evening outdoors eating grilled burgers and hotdogs. Even Valentine’s Day, for many, doesn’t come to an end without enjoying a nice dinner with a loved one. Important events and celebrations throughout the world center themselves around food.
TAFB staff work with people from all backgrounds, races, ethnicities and religions throughout our 13-county service area every day. TAFB values and embraces diversity, fairness and inclusion as fundamental to our vision of empowering communities where no one has to go hungry. Whether we are directly engaged with clients, volunteers or donors, we work hard at having an active role in the health, growth and sustainability of our North Texas neighbors.
This holiday season, we are reminded of the important role food has not only in our everyday lives, but in our traditions. Food not only sustains life, it enriches life and we at Tarrant Area Food Bank are thankful to be an ingredient in this recipe.