An oasis might be on the way for Dallas food deserts

DALLAS -- The difference between a dessert and a desert might be a single 'S', but fixing the food deserts across Texas is no piece of cake.

"It's a big difference between where I live at and here," said Oak Cliff Save-a-Lot employee and Grand Prairie resident Dahlia Ramos. "Right in my neighborhood we have five different grocery's within five blocks."

For someone in the Highland Hills part of Oak Cliff, getting groceries used to mean going way out of their way.

"It was terrible," said Oak Cliff resident Alga Smith. "I had to leave my house early in the morning, 30-40 minutes early in order to go to the store and pick up something, then run in late."

Smith and many others were living in food deserts. What is that? The US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service has different levels of food desert. It can be an area with no grocery stores within a half mile or urban area or 10 miles of rural area all the way no grocery stores within a full mile of urban area or 20 miles of rural area.

In October, thanks to money from the City of Dallas, the Highland Hills area jumped off that list when a Save-a-Lot opened on Simpson Stuart Road in that neighborhood.

"I eat more vegetables now than I did when I was a kid!" Smith laughed.

The point of the story is that investing in these food desert communities really does work!

The Texas State Legislature just might take steps to help the 40 food desert communities in Dallas and beyond.

Two bills - Senate Bill 723 and House Bill 3324 - would help create these stores through grants and private funds.

"I've seen people struggle on the bus with four and five bags and stuff getting wasted on the bus because they didn't have a way to get to a store that was near them," Smith said.

Another bill, House Bill 3299, would give tax credits for companies willing to open in these areas.

People think about, "Why am I going to put money in here if it's not going to come back?" Ramos said. "Really, this store, there's days that we have all four registers open."

The people of southern Dallas and beyond have been starving in their food deserts for long enough. It's time to find an oasis.