Local and state officials joined Tarrant Area Food Bank staff and volunteers to celebrate the grand opening ceremony and ribbon-cutting of the new Sid W. Richardson Foundation Agricultural Hub on Feb. 28. The facility increases access to produce for communities in need throughout the 13 counties the food bank serves.

The backstory

The Ag Hub, which was completed in November, addresses one of the biggest challenges for those who deal with food insecurity, officials said: access to nutritious produce. It is an 8,000-square-foot refrigerated storage facility that allows food bank staff and volunteers to do three main things:
  • Process produce locally: The hub will allow fruits and vegetables to be processed in the heart of Fort Worth—thus increasing its freshness period—before being distributed to the more than 450 area food pantries.
  • Provide trading opportunities: The Ag Hub’s proximity to Arkansas, which has a chicken hub, and Oklahoma, which has a beef hub, could also prove useful with food trades for protein.
  • Support local farmers: By having a large, dedicated space for produce distribution, food bank officials can expand partnerships with local and regional produce growers​.
The specifics

TAFB President and CEO Julie Butner said by opening the week before Thanksgiving, staff and volunteers were able to receive 12 truckloads of produce they were able to process and get to families in need during the holidays.

“In our 13-county service area, we have close to a half million people who go to bed at night hungry, and about a quarter of them are children,” Butner said. “The idea behind the Ag Hub was not just about getting food on the table; it was also thinking about what kind of food we wanted to put on the table.”

Butner added that the goal of the Ag Hub is to increase produce distribution from 27% in 2023 to hopefully 35% by September 2024 and then eventually 40% to 45%.

Butner said the Ag Hub is a great example of a public-private partnership. Several organizations came together to help fund the facility, including:What they’re saying

Dignitaries on hand to help celebrate the Ag Hub’s grand opening included Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, city of Fort Worth council members and representatives from Tarrant County.

“Nutrition is the biggest division of the Texas Department of Agriculture,” Miller said. “When I first started, we were serving zero local fresh products to our children. We came up with programs and partnered with farmers and people in [school] cafeterias. Last year, our schools served $300 million worth of local products.”

“To fund a capital project this quickly took a tremendous amount of support and belief that this was the right thing to do, not just for Fort Worth children and families, but for all the folks that we serve in this 13-county region,” Parker said.