They arrive as early as 5:30 a.m. – families toting wagons, boxes, crates and bags, lining up outside the Northwest Campus hangar, hoping to be among the first to choose from a selection of fresh produce, protein and bakery items at the monthly Community Food Market.
The Market, which began in September, is part of a collaboration among Northwest, Tarrant Area Food Bank and Community Link, a food pantry serving Northwest Tarrant County.
Humanities Division Dean Lisa Benedetti helped spearhead the project after being approached by Community Link Associate Director Lara Gay. Development began in spring for the project, which aims to provide local families with a place to obtain fresh food normally not available at local food pantries and banks.
“We know that food insecurity is a huge problem with students,” Benedetti said. “Lake Worth ISD, which is one of our sister districts, is on 90 percent food subsidy. Eagle Mountain-Saginaw has more than 7,000 students who are on food subsidies. So we know there’s an incredible need out there, so what better way to serve the community than here?”
The community responded immediately. The October Market served 318 families, up from 250 the month before. Based on reported household sizes, this means the October Market served more than 1,000 people, and there’s reason to think it’s growing.
Tarrant Area Food Bank obtains the food, delivered on pallets to the hangar the morning of the Market. The delivery is primarily produce, but can also include bakery items. Community Link helps purchase protein from TAFB.
Lourdes Davenport, chair of TCC’s ESL/ESOL program and a member of the project committee, said the Markets display true campus collaboration. “It is truly amazing to see such a grand effort be so very organized and supported by our NW Campus community,” she said.
The project has provided an opportunity for various groups around campus to get involved.
Mike Esquivel, chair of the Logistics and Supply Chain Management Program, said the Market has provided a valuable learning opportunity for his students, who adjust the distribution plan each month.
Logistics students aren’t the only ones who are involved – students from the entrepreneurship program, led by Lourdes Ramboa, also provide feedback and planning support. Faculty, staff, community and student volunteers – including 20 to 25 from Marine Creek Collegiate High School – help run the market. Fort Worth ISD staff, including Superintendent Kent Paredes Scribner, volunteered at the October Market.
The CFM committee plans to work with the Horticulture program to create a composting space to deposit inedible food, and they are also growing vegetables to provide to the Market. Benedetti is also interested in involving Technical Writing students to help promote the program and create recipes.
Tarrant Area Food Bank Senior Director Barbara Ewen said her organization is proud of the partnership they’ve established.
“The collaborations built between an agency (Community Link), TCC and so many others in the community has been something that typically does not just happen so quickly,” Ewen said. “It has been a testament to the great community building that Lisa [Benedetti] and the others at TCC had already been doing.”
“This project has been so important for our community,” Gay said. “Tarrant County College is a recognizable and familiar location with great resources that our families need even beyond food.”
For Benedetti, the project is a perfect example of service learning and caring for others, both important parts of Northwest Campus culture.
“This is not something that [feels like] a pantry,” Benedetti said. “We want them to feel celebrated on this campus.”
Market attendees are grateful — not only for the food, but also for the atmosphere. One participant already knows Benedetti by name, and he thanked her for always smiling.
“How can you not smile?” Benedetti said. “I smile from the moment the truck arrives until the very end.”
Ways to Help
- Donations: the committee is accepting donations of personal hygiene items to be offered at the Market. These items are typically not available at local food pantries.
- Financial support: For $200-300 per month, Community Link could purchase enough protein from Tarrant Area Food Bank to feed every family who attends the Market.
- Volunteer: Each event requires a team of volunteers to help distribute and carry food, direct attendees, translate for those not fluent in English and provide information on TCC and other local services.