Plano Leaders Learn About Hunger

The City of Plano hosted its June 2024 Community Leadership Meeting at the North Texas Food Bank to learn about food insecurity and ways they can make an impact.

Plano Mayor John Muns, City Manager Mark Israelson, State Rep. Mihaela Plesa and leaders from throughout Plano gathered at the North Texas Food Bank in mid-June to learn about how hunger is impacting their community.

Rob Dolby, Senior Director of Community Partner Relations for NTFB, shared that Texas now leads the nation in hunger, according to a new Feeding America report, and the 13-county area served by the Food Bank has the fourth-highest number of food insecure individuals in the country.

In Collin County, which includes Plano, nearly 131,000 people (or 12.1% of the population) faced hunger in 2022, the most recent data available, up from 105,000 people in 2021.

Along with Rob, the panel featured leaders from some of NTFB’s valued partners, including Dr. Cheryl Jackson, founder of Minnie’s Food Pantry; Julissa Estrada, executive director of Local Good Center; and Michelle Leavitt, chapter co-lead for Lovepacs Plano.

Guests in attendance were struck not just by the scale of hunger in Plano but also by the cost of living that contributes to food insecurity. The panel shared that the DFW region has one of the highest meal costs in the country, at an average of $4.22 per meal, compared to the national average of $3.86. Those costs when combined with higher prices due to inflation for everything from housing to fuel means more people are in need of food assistance than even at the height of the pandemic.

The North Texas Food Bank works to meet that need by partnering with pantries and community organizations throughout Collin County, including Local Good Center, Minnie’s Food Pantry and Lovepacs. In total, NTFB and its partners distributed 7.9 million meals in Plano zip codes last year.

Minnie’s Food Pantry provides neighbors with access to food as well as financial education and other services meant to help break the generational cycle of food insecurity. Local Good Center has a client choice-style market where neighbors can receive healthy foods. They offer this along with preventative health programs, job readiness training and other services. Lovepacs targets child hunger by providing food for families to take home with them during school breaks, when many kids don’t have access to the school meal programs that they rely on when class is in session.

Leaders in attendance also learned about the importance these nonprofits put on providing access to food with the dignity and respect of their neighbors in mind. That includes considering specific dietary needs like is a priority at Local Good Center.

They also talked about how data plays a key role for the NTFB when it is determining how to distribute food efficiently and equitably.

Plano’s Community Leadership meeting brings together leaders from neighborhood groups, nonprofit organizations, the faith-based community, multicultural organizations and chambers of commerce with the goal of strengthening Plano by building relationships.