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Local nonprofits join together in effort to bring more fresh produce to areas of food insecurity

Local nonprofits join together in effort to bring more fresh produce to areas of food insecurity
Written by Publishing Team

Filled with pineapples, red peppers and leafy greens, a new 40-foot cold storage unit will quadruple the amount community food organizations can distribute in South Dallas, according to local nonprofits.

The storage unit is part of a partnership between the Oak Cliff Veggie Project, a food resource organization addressing food insecurity, and the 4DWN Project, a non-profit organization rooted in skateboarding. The storage unit is located at the 4DWN skatepark on Ferris Street. The two organizations launched a month-long food drive from the cold storage unit on Monday.

They say the unit, which spanned two years, is just the beginning of 4DWN’s transformation. Over the next two years, the 4DWN Project and the Oak Cliff Veggie Project will build a new distribution center with a community garden, vertical hydroponic farm, and educational facility right next to the skateboard park.

Skateboarders Riley Lamb, 10, left, Minton Lamm, 11, center, and Carli Kessler, 7, right, gather with their boards outside the new cold storage facility for the Oak Cliff Veggie Project and the 4DWN Project during a soft opening for the Storage Tank at 4DWN Skatepark in Dallas on Monday. (Ben Torres / Special Contributor)

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the two organizations officially opened the storage facility as community members and skate park regulars donated bags of produce to begin stocking the unit.

Having this opening on MLK Day meant a lot to the organizers.

“We are here in his spirit and his energy,” said Ples Montgomery IV, co-founder of Oak Cliff Veggie Project. “He was a great speaker, but he is a man of action.”

Ples co-founded OCVP alongside his mother, Bettie Montgomery, whom Ples considers the true founder. Bettie started the organization in 2015 when she said she was called in to donate food to people. As a former nurse, she understood the impact of food insecurity on the health of her community.

“The incidents of chronic disease in our community are huge,” Bettie said. ” It’s enormous. It literally kills us.

According to Parkland Hospital’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessment conducted in 2019, South Dallas has high rates of hypertension and diabetes. These diseases, among other factors, play a role in the life expectancy of this region. A resident of the 10th Street Historic District, a neighborhood of Oak Cliff, can expect to live to an average of 64.2 years, the shortest life expectancy in the Dallas area.

Volunteers and skaters gather outside the new cold storage facility for the Oak Cliff Veggie Project and the 4DWN Project during a soft opening of the storage tank at the 4DWN Skatepark in Dallas on Monday.
Volunteers and skaters gather outside the new cold storage facility for the Oak Cliff Veggie Project and the 4DWN Project during a soft opening of the storage tank at the 4DWN Skatepark in Dallas on Monday. (Ben Torres / Special Contributor)

Bettie said that by providing fresh produce and educating people about food, they can keep people from going to hospital. For OCVP, creating links with other organizations maximizes the impact it can have.

“Food is not a competition,” Bettie said. “It is a necessity.”

What started several years ago as a free produce panel at his local church that fed 30-40 people a month has grown to feed more than 1,200 people every Saturday morning.

The 4DWN Project and OCVP formed a partnership a few years ago to expand the resources given to their community. The 4DWN project is rooted in four things: skateboarding, music, art and food. Throughout the pandemic, 4DWN and The Harvest Project have been giving out merchandise every Wednesday at the skatepark

“Everything we do as skaters, we naturally want to create progression,” said 4DWN co-founder Rob Cahill. “That’s how we found ourselves on the path to food and found our way to OCVP, The Harvest Project and other partners.”

Cahill said skateboarders are rebellious and sometimes that comes in the form of being kind and empowering people who are excluded from mainstream society. These values ​​are what bind 4DWN, OCVP and their partners.

“We all work together because we all have an empowerment mindset in our programs,” Ples said. “We don’t want to be known as a charity. We want to be recognized as empowering organizations that enable change.

To donate to Oak Cliff Veggie Project, go to their website oakcliffveggieproject.org.

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