Area Mayors Learn About Food Insecurity During NTFB’s Annual Mayor Day

The North Texas Food Bank revealed Feeding America’s new Map the Meal Gap data during an event meant to provide leaders with a look at food insecurity in their communities.

Nearly 20 mayors from around the region gathered at the North Texas Food Bank on May 15 for the Food Bank’s fourth annual Mayor Day.

Hosted each spring, the event aims to give mayors from the 13 counties served by the NTFB a look at food insecurity in their communities as well as an understanding of how the NTFB is working to meet the needs in their cities.

“Sadly, the data shows that Texas now leads the nation in food insecurity, surpassing California as the state with the largest number of people facing hunger,” said NTFB President and CEO Trisha Cunningham, sharing with guests that Texas’ food insecurity rate is 16.4%, which means nearly 5 million people in our state face hunger. “While Texas boasts of being bigger in many aspects, leading the nation in food insecurity is not a badge of honor we can proudly wear.”

Cunningham shared that the 13 counties served by the NTFB have the fourth-highest number of food insecure persons in the U.S., with nearly 778,000 North Texans facing hunger, up from nearly 640,000 in 2021. Sadly, hunger is even more pronounced among children in our area, with nearly 287,000, or 1 in 5, children facing hunger. Read more about the Map the Meal Gap data here.

Along with receiving information about the NTFB’s overall service area, each mayor was provided with data about their community, including the number of people facing hunger and the NTFB partner agencies working in their cities to ensure neighbors have access to nutritious food.

NTFB Vice President of Community Impact Anne Readhimer shared with the mayors about NTFB’s strategic plan, which calls for not only providing Food for Today but also Hope for Tomorrow through strategic initiatives and partnerships that target the underlying barriers to food security.

Mayors also had the chance to hear from leaders at NTFB’s two distribution hubs: Crossroads Community Services’ Chief of Staff Taylor Hall and Sharing Life Founder and CEO Teresa Jackson.

Taylor echoed what Trisha shared, telling leaders that the needs among neighbors are higher now than even at the height of the pandemic. She said that Crossroads is focused on ensuring neighbors have consistent access to food, rather than relying on pantries for emergency access only. That means they provide neighbors with monthly appointments to shop at Crossroads’ market, and also work to provide neighbors with access to other services.

Teresa agreed and said she believes housing prices are the biggest factor in the higher needs being seen now. She said with rent and housing costs up significantly in the past few years, many of their neighbors cannot afford housing, insurance, transportation costs and groceries. Sharing Life works to ensure groceries aren’t something families are going without, and Teresa said they’re doing that in some innovative ways, including through an app that allows neighbors to order the groceries they can use and pick them up at a designated time.

Teresa and Trisha also both emphasized to mayors the importance of advocating with legislators for a strong Farm Bill.

Trisha told mayors that NTFB and its partners have proven they know how to meet the need in the community, but they can only do that if the resources to provide access to food are available. The Farm Bill covers several crucial feeding programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program that serves seniors and the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Along with learning about the latest data on food insecurity, several mayors participated in a short volunteer experience.

Mayors in attendance included Addison Mayor Bruce Arfsten, Bonham Mayor H.L. Compton, Fairview Mayor Henry Lessner, Forney Mayor Jason Robeson, Gunter Mayor Karen Souther, Howe Mayor Karla McDonald, Lavon Mayor Vicki Sanson, Lancaster Mayor Clyde C. Hairston, Lewisville Mayor TJ Gilmore, Little Elm Mayor Curtis Cornelious, Mesquite Mayor Daniel Aleman, Plano Mayor John Muns, Prosper Mayor Marcus Ray, Shady Shores Mayor Pro Tem Tom Newell, Richardson Mayor Bob Dubey and Sachse Mayor Jeff Bickerstaff.