by Zane Peng
2020 was a difficult year that laid bare the systemic inequalities and the instability inherent to a “paycheck to paycheck” lifestyle plaguing too many in the United States. Non-profits have found themselves at the forefront of helping those negatively impacted by the economic and health changes brought on by COVID-19. In response to the increasing need exhibited through the growing numbers and changing ways in which people need help, non-profits also often find themselves needing to adapt and expand their services for their local communities.
It is in such an environment that For Oak Cliff, a non-profit specifically focusing on serving the 75216 Superblock in Dallas, TX, decided to add a meal distribution program to help fill in the food gap in their community. The challenge is as daunting as the need is enormous. Roughly 90% of the population in the 75216 Superblock is either of African-American or Hispanic heritage, and over 93% of people surveyed expressed the need for basic necessities such as food since the pandemic began.
With the assistance of the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions (DCHS), For Oak Cliff worked closely with the North Texas Food Bank, Services of Hope, Hunger Busters, and Cafe Momentum to meet that need. $1,060,399 worth of food was received by For Oak Cliff and distributed to the families in 2020 alone. That is 826,080 meals made possible. But even with this coordinated effort, there is still more to do. Logistical difficulties such as transportation delays and lack of cold storage mean that food needs to be distributed promptly after arrival, and there may be excessively long wait times for food to arrive. On top of these challenges, For Oak Cliff staff noticed that many of the people in line for food may also have underlying health issues. For instance, one woman revealed her disabilities brought on by kidney issues, making the wait and uncertainty even more excruciating.
To address these problems brought to light by the pandemic, For Oak Cliff has acquired a new building and hopes to grow its food program with a fully functional kitchen and multiple cold storages. The vision is to create a space where people in the Superblock can obtain hot meals and learn how to cook in addition to being a food distribution site. For Oak Cliff is glad to announce that with the help of its partners the project has so far raised $100,000 in funding, but that is only halfway toward their goal. They hope to continue the momentum to build better lives for residents in the community and to build on their mission to end systemic oppression in the Superblock of South Oak Cliff in Dallas.
To learn more about For Oak Cliff and how to help its meal distribution program, visit http://foroakcliff.org/donate/.