PARKER COUNTY — North central Texas got a little less hungry Thursday, when the Tarrant Area Food Bank christened its new Parker County campus.
The 28,000-square-foot food warehouse, which includes 8,000 square feet of refrigeration space, expands the Fort Worth-based nonprofit organization’s service area from six counties to 13.
“One thing we are facing that we haven’t faced in the past is a rapidly growing population,” Julie Butner, president and CEO of the Tarrant Area Food Bank, told about 120 supporters during the site ribbon cutting. “But you know what that means. When people move into our counties, there’s always a hungry subset of the population. … And as the population grows, we need to do a better job of serve our growing counties.”
Tarrant Area Food Bank West, on the south side of Interstate 20 between Weatherford and Brock, will serve residents of Parker, Palo Pinto, Hood, Somervell, Hamilton, Erath and Bosque counties.
“It’s a big thing,” Mineral Wells Mayor Pro Tem Doyle Light said as the crowd arrived.
Light said Palo Pinto residents in her town would probably like to volunteer for the food bank, but the distance to Fort Worth makes it impractical.
“It’s a place close enough that maybe we can encourage some volunteers to travel from Mineral Wells,” he said, turning to Steve Martin, manager of the new branch. “We’re so excited to have this up close.”
Butner told the crowd that the new campus was designed not only to provide food, but also healthy eating habits.
A newly planted garden will feed a mission kitchen where people can learn what to do with that radish or eggplant fresh from the raised beds. A Mission Market offered by HEB supermarkets focuses on nutrition.
“These are mostly rural counties,” Butner said. “So they’re hard to get to. We need partner agencies to serve our more rural counties.”
She contrasted modern hunger with her Depression-era image of skin and bones. Today, she says, people too often live on an unhealthy diet and instead of wasting away, they become obese.
“Why is that?” she asked. “And a lot of that depends on our food supply. And that’s the point of the garden, not just knowing how to grow food, but what to do with it.”
Weatherford Mayor Paul Paschall told the rally he learned of the food bank’s expansion “at the start of the pandemic” when Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called to say the food bank was looking for from space.
“I didn’t know they were planning to invest in our community and serve other counties west of our community,” Paschall said.
U.S. Representative Roger Williams, R-Austin, told the crowd the food bank will serve 1.1 million meals every week “out of here.”
“Rural areas, as many of you know, have been underserved in many ways,” he said.