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News Nonprofit Matters: One in four local children at risk of hunger

Nonprofit Matters: One in four local children at risk of hunger

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

A new study finds that 498,800 people, including 181,000 children, in the Tarrant Area Food Bank service area do not always know where they will find their next meal. In all, 16.8 percent of the population in the 13-county region struggles with hunger, according to research recently released by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. The findings are from Feeding America’s third “Map the Meal Gap” study. The nationwide estimates are calculated at the county level and are based on data from 2011. The Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) in Fort Worth is part of the Feeding America network. According to the study, the highest rate of food insecurity in TAFB’s service region is in Tarrant County – 17.9 percent. In Texas, 18.7 percent of all residents are food insecure. For the United States, the average rate is 14.9 percent, the study says. That’s more than 319,000 Tarrant residents who struggle with hunger. In Texas, it’s more than 4.8 million adults and children. Nationwide, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, more than 50 million people are food insecure. By analyzing household income levels, the study shows that in the TAFB service area, 63 percent of children at risk of hunger are eligible for federal nutrition programs, such as free or reduced-price school lunch or breakfast. According to Map the Meal Gap, the Tarrant rate of child food insecurity is 23.3 percent, nearly 1 in 4 children. That translates into 116,370 kids who don’t always get enough to eat to support normal physical, mental or psychological development. “This is data our partner charities can share with their communities to raise awareness of the needs of children and their hard-working parents earning minimum wage as well as the needs of seniors on fixed incomes and laid-off workers, all of them struggling every day to make ends meet,” said Bo Soderbergh, TAFB executive director.

FW Housing to convert two properties Two public housing properties owned by the Fort Worth Housing Authority have been selected to participate in a nationwide HUD Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Project. RAD is a new program designed to convert traditional low-rent public housing into long-term, project-based Section 8 Rental Assistance. RAD will allow FWHA to leverage private-sector funding to rehabilitate properties and address immediate and long-term capital needs. The communities involved the conversion are Fair Park Apartments, a 48-unit development in south Fort Worth, and Fair Oaks Apartments, a 76-unit complex that houses seniors and persons with disabilities. FWHA will have one year to plan and budget for physical improvements. The preliminary combined budget for redevelopment of the two properties is $6.2 million. Brian Dennison, FWHA vice president of development and asset management, said RAD will allow the organization to exchange its existing public housing funding stream for a fixed Housing Assistance Payments contract that has guaranteed funding for 20 years.

BBBS expands mentoring program Big Brothers Big Sisters is bringing its innovative technology-based mentoring program to high school students in Fort Worth. The program, called mentor2.0, began in Dallas last year. The agency will expand the program in Dallas and Houston and expects to spread nationwide over the next five years. The goal of mentor2.0 is to provide the support and guidance that students need to graduate from high school and succeed in college and the workforce. Mentor and mentee communicate via an email system monitored by Big Brothers Big Sisters staff to ensure safety and provide relationship support. The curriculum includes problem-solving skills, motivation, career exploration, interview skills, leadership and college admissions processes. Almost 400 students were served in the program during the 2012-2013 school year. Dunbar High School will be the first Fort Worth school to launch mentor2.0. More than 100 students from Dunbar are expected to be matched with adult mentors for the 2013-2014 school year. Corporate sponsors of the program in Fort Worth include Autobahn Motorcar Group, the Sid Richardson Foundation, The Morris Foundation, Blue Mesa Grill Arlington and AT&T.

Camp Fire extinguished in Dallas After serving youth for more than a century, Camp Fire Lone Star, one of the oldest nonprofits in Dallas, has closed its doors. Founded in 1910, the organization has struggled financially in recent years. This year the agency, which had shifted its focus to lower-income, inner-city neighborhoods, lost critical funding from United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and saw its annual budget shrink to less than $1 million. Fort Worth-based Camp Fire First Texas, which was founded in 1914, receives only about 2 percent of its annual budget from United Way. With a budget of about $5.5 million, Camp Fire First Texas serves youth in Denton, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Tarrant and Wise counties, with a focus on teen service and leadership, before- and after-school tutoring and mentoring, and camp programs. “Although the Dallas Camp Fire board’s decision does not have any effect on Camp Fire First Texas, our board and staff were sorry to learn of the extent of their financial challenges,” said Zem Neill, who has served as executive director of Camp Fire First Texas for 35 years. “We can appreciate that the decision was a difficult one to make.” Neill said Camp Fire First Texas has benefited from long-term board leadership and generous community support, which has resulted in relevant services and sustainable resources to grow programs and provide state-of-the-art facilities. “The Fort Worth council is currently providing early education and outdoor programs to participants from around the state, including Dallas County, and will continue to do so,” Neill said.

Speedway Children’s Charities sets record Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter hit a fundraising mark recently as the organization raised more than $670,000 from the Silver Dollar at the Ranch event. The May 18 fundraiser marked the largest-grossing single-day event nationally among the nonprofit’s eight chapters. The funds will be donated to the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, along with other pediatric cancer summer camps in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter serves Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Since the chapter was established in 1997, it has distributed more than $8.5 million in grants to local charities.

Send nonprofit news to Betty Dillard at bdillard @bizpress.net  

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