It Takes A Village: small local non-profits and volunteers are helping feed North Texas’ most vulnerable

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Volunteers put away donated produce at the Metropolitan Dream Center that was donated by The Harvest Project (Photo courtesy Rebecca King)

DALLAS (KDAF) – It was an unexpected surprise. On Thursday, 22 donated boxes full of fresh produce showed up at the Metropolitan Dream Center, a South Dallas charitable organization that runs a food pantry.

Margaret James, the executive director at the Dream Center, was beyond excited. Due to the pandemic, the center has been consistently running out of food and essential supplies so every donation counts.

“As soon as they get supplies, they’re already running out,” says the founder of Dallas for Change, Anthony Lazon, who helped deliver today’s goods. It’s not uncommon for the Dream Center to open their doors after hours for someone in need.

Dream Center Executive Director Margaret James with volunteers from The Harvest Project, Anthony and Rebecca King. (Photo courtesy Rebecca King)

The produce donation was donated from another non-profit called The Harvest Project. Produce that isn’t up to the high aesthetic standards of grocery stores is often discarded and thrown out, despite the fact that it’s still perfectly good. Since 2014, The Harvest Project has been using that produce to distribute fresh fruits and vegetables to families who need it.

Given the demand, the produce delivery was very much needed at the Dream Center. It’s also an example of the symbiotic ecosystem that many small community organizations and non-profits are operating within during the pandemic.

When the pandemic hit there were many headlines about bigger organizations, like the North Texas Food Bank, and what they were doing to meet the high demand for food and assistance. Make no mistake, this is vital and crucial work that prevents hundreds of North Texas families from going hungry. They also support smaller food pantries around North Texas to feed people in their communities.

There are, however, gaps that organizations like Metropolitan Dream Center and The Harvest Project fill. These organizations don’t have budgets in the millions, and they will give food to anyone who needs it without the need for documentation—barriers that often cause some of the most vulnerable, like undocumented immigrants, to shy away from other food pantries.

The 22 boxes of produce delivered to the Dream Center wasn’t part of a large distribution with stipulations or even invoices attached. The pantry needed food to feed families, and volunteers with The Harvest Project had the extra boxes and knew where it was needed.

Volunteers put away donated produce at the Metropolitan Dream Center (Photo courtesy Rebecca King)

Rebecca King, another volunteer with The Harvest Project, is looking for ways to get The Harvest Project produce to food-insecure refugees. King also volunteers with the Refugee Services of Texas, the organization that helps resettle refugees into the North Texas Community. Serendipitously, she recently delivered to a refugee family who had a staff member from the organization listed as a contact. From there, King learned that they had 44 food-insecure families.

“Through volunteering, I’m realizing the overlap between many of the smaller non-profits in Dallas who are working toward specific causes” she says, “What has been really inspiring is the readiness of these organizations to come together to help people and create change within each others’ communities.”

While big, charitable organizations often get the spotlight (and millions in funding), just as important is the work being done between the lines and deep within communities that tend to be overlooked.

It goes to show that no matter how big or small, it takes connecting with others and working together to really make a difference.

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