Amid the glitz of growth and new development, many DFW residents face food insecurity


Taylor Coit

Despite rapid growth and new development, food insecurity remains a problem for many Dallas-Fort Worth residents.

Taylor Coit, Staff Writer

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has seen a boom in population growth, ranking No. 1 in the country in metropolitan growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many job opportunities and new residents are ready to settle in and call the Metroplex home.

New strip malls and apartments replaced once barren and lifeless areas. Developers in Arlington, Texas, invested significant sums in the growing entertainment district housing AT&T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys.

But while things may look shiny and new, data show the glitzy developments may be curtains hiding away the harsh realities for long-time Metroplex residents.

According to the Taste Project, 15.4% of people in the United States live with food insecurity. Seventeen percent of Texas’ population suffers from food insecurity.

Tarrant County averages at about 18.1% of its population suffering from food insecurity. Thirty-six percent of these individuals do not qualify for government assistance programs.

The Tarrant Area Food Bank serves the DFW area around 1 million meals a week and 60 million  meals per year. The program serves Tarrant and 12 other surrounding counties, such as Denton and Parker.

Debbie Gormley, volunteer coordinator, said the program partners with 168 different pantries in the surrounding area. Most of the food it donates consist of non-persiahables, but the bank has recently built a community garden to start delivering fresh produce to shelters.

“It always feels great to help the community,” she said. “These people need our help and it’s a shame they are always neglected.”

According to Feeding America, in 2020, an estimated one in eight Americans were food insecure, equating to more than 38 million Americans. Almost 12 million of them were children.

These individuals live in areas called food deserts. Food deserts can be described as geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance, according to the Food Empowerment Project.

Photo of crispy red apples.
In food deserts, residents’ access to fresh, nutritious food is limited because of a lack of supermarkets within a reasonable distance. (Staff Photo)

People living in these areas may find it difficult to locate goods that are culturally appropriate or that consider dietary restrictions such as gluten allergies and lactose intolerance.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are four levels of food insecurity that describe the range of households’ experiences when accessing food. These levels are high food security, marginal food security, low food security and very low food insecurity.

High food security households have no problems or anxieties about consistently accessing food. Marginal food security household have some problems or anxieties when accessing food, but the quality is not substantially reduced.

Low food security households have reduced quality, variety and desirability of their diets, but their food intake and normal eating patterns are not disrupted. Very low food security households have irregular eating patterns and food intake due to lack of money or other resources to food.

USDA data show levels of food security for the period between 2010 and 2020.
USDA data show the levels of relative food security for U.S. residents from 2010-2020. (Taylor Coit)

John Hopkins University conducted a study in 2014 to observe the intersectionality of neighborhood racial segregation and its impact on food store availability. Researchers found that as the poverty of a neighborhood increased, supermarket availability decreased. Black census neighborhoods had the fewest supermarkets, while white census neighborhoods had the most.

Black and brown neighborhoods are mainly grouped in the urban zone of cities. Instead of supermarkets, there are an abundant number of convenience stores, according to the study.

Predominately Black neighborhoods have the highest level of poverty at 70.74%, the study found. Predominately Hispanic neighborhoods have a 71.52% high poverty rate and predominately white neighborhoods have a 21.15% high poverty rate.

As a result, poor predominately, black neighborhoods face a double jeopardy with the most limited access to quality food and supermarkets, according to the study.