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CARE faculty from UT Southwestern and the University of Dallas are on a mission to ensure that all households, especially the low-income and underserved, can meet their basic needs. To accomplish this goal, CARE collaborates with Crossroads Community Services, a Dallas nonprofit that supplies nutritious food and supportive education through an effective, efficient, and equitable charitable food distribution system. CARE uses Crossroads-rich client data to identify unmet needs, underlying barriers, and opportunities to improve food pantry service delivery.
Crossroads determined that the traditional "food bank-food pantry member" model posed access barriers in Dallas County. Access barriers include a limited number of food pantries, often many miles away from food insecure families and individuals who need more nutritious food, and a limited capacity of many food pantries to provide substantial amounts of food to each household. For community members with limited transportation, time constraints, and/or health challenges, it can be difficult to travel to a centralized food pantry.
Crossroads replaced the traditional centralized food bank-member pantry model with a “community distribution partner” (CDP) model. The new CDP model extends the reach of food distribution across a larger geographic area by engaging a myriad of organizations who want to nourish their neighbors but do not want to become a full-fledged pantry operation. CDPs are local entities that re-distribute food from convenient locations in clients’ neighborhoods. They include community centers, places of worship, public housing sites, and other non-profits whose core mission is not feeding people.
Through community-academic partnership and peer-reviewed grant funding, CARE researchers and Crossroads staff collected and analyzed research data. Their analysis showed that the novel CDP model improved:
- Access to charitable food,
- Regularity of client receipt of groceries,
- Food security, and
- Social support of clients.