Bus Tour Provides Full Plate Society Members a Look at Their Impact

NTFB hosted its inaugural Full Plate Society bus tour with stops at Network of Community Ministries, Good Samaritan’s of Garland and Sharing Life.

Members of the North Texas Food Bank’s Full Plate Society received a first-hand look at how their support of the Food Bank is impacting neighbors during a bus tour hosted this week.

The group began their day with a tour of the NTFB Perot Family Campus warehouse before they departed on a bus that visited NTFB partners Network of Community Ministries, Good Samaritan’s of Garland (known as Good Sam’s) and Sharing Life Community Outreach.

Full Plate Society members, who have each included the Food Bank in their planned giving, are considered part of the NTFB family, said Erin Fincher, NTFB Senior Director of Foundation Giving and Strategic Initiatives, so it’s important that they’re able to see how their gifts are helping close the hunger gap in North Texas. The tour was organized to give them a look at how critical NTFB’s partners are in the Food Bank’s work to provide access to nutritious food, now and in the future.

“If our partner agencies aren’t successful, we’re not successful,” Erin said.

At Network of Community Ministries, which serves families living in Richardson ISD, the group heard from President and CEO Abbie Kauffman, who shared that through the first half of fiscal year 2024, they’ve distributed nearly as much food as they did in all of fiscal year 2023.

“It’s with gratitude to the North Texas Food Bank that they continue to say, ‘yes,’ when we say we need more food,” Abbie said.

Abbie said they serve families, refugees and seniors and that while food is typically what drives people to their organization, groceries are just the beginning of the support they offer. Network provides access to a host of resources, from ESL and job readiness skills training to mental health services and companion calls for seniors. In the pantry, which is set up like a grocery store, neighbors select foods that they know their family can use and then checkout with “Network Dollars, which are meant to help to teach financial literacy while providing access to groceries.

Next, Full Plate Society members visited Good Sam’s, which Executive Director Sara Kenefake shared will move to a larger facility nearby in the coming months. Currently, the pantry is located in a former house in Garland and serves around 300 families each day, including some who are unhoused.

Outside Good Sam’s, NTFB recently placed one of its first Produce Pods. A standalone, refrigerated storage trailer, the Produce Pod holds up to four pallets of fresh food, or 20,000 meals, at a time and Sara said it has allowed them to serve an additional 50 to 100 guests each day.

“We could not do this without the North Texas Food Bank,” she said, of their operation.

During the last stop, Full Plate Society members toured Sharing Life’s new facility, just a few weeks before it hosts an official grand opening.

Located in a former Office Depot, the new location includes a revamped food pantry that allows for shorter wait times and more efficiency throughout, said Founder and CEO Teresa Jackson. Along with on-site shopping, the pantry provides delivery options through a sponsored partnership with DoorDash and pickup options through an e-pantry system and locker pickup area.

Teresa said the move was possible, in part, because of a $2 million NTFB Capital Investment Grant. After showing the group the pantry, she walked them through Sharing Life’s Hub, which is its distribution center that provides NTFB food to between 80 and 100 NTFB partners in the surrounding area.

Between the tours, guests heard during their bus trip from NTFB President and CEO Trisha Cunningham, Vice President of Community Impact Anne Readhimer, Chief External Affairs Officer Erica Yaeger and Director of Food Sourcing Stacy Stephenson.

Stacy shared that they’ve been able to connect retailers with places like Good Sam’s so that produce and other food can be delivered directly to partner food pantries. When that’s done, it is distributed to neighbors faster than it would be if it had to pass through NTFB’s warehouse first.

“We’re grateful to be able to rescue the food and get it out to people who can use it,” Stacy said, adding that her team expects to rescue more than 50 million nutritious pounds of food next year.

Trisha expressed her gratitude to Full Plate Society members for attending and said that their commitment to NTFB is crucial as it not only meets the needs of today, but also helps NTFB be prepared to meet any needs that arise in the future. While she doesn’t expect the Food Bank to ever put itself out of business, Trisha told guests that her hope is to continue building strong relationships with partners that provide neighbors with access to nutritious food while also working with them to address the underlying barriers to hunger.

If you are interested in learning more or joining the Full Plate Society, please visit here or contact Erin Fincher at erinf@ntfb.org.

Kathleen Petty is communications manager for the North Texas Food Bank.