Mega Mobile Markets make a mega impact

Nearly five months after they began, the Tarrant Area Food Bank’s drive-thru food distributions, called Mega Mobile Markets, continue to grow.

As the pandemic lingers in Texas, so does an unprecedented rise in hunger. As people are laid off and unemployment checks hang in the balance, the uncertainty has prompted many Texans to seek food assistance for the first time. Feeding Texas reported that the percentage of food-insecure families has doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) has provided food and essentials to hundreds of partner agencies and added 30 special feeding events per week to meet the need. Compared to pre-COVID-19 operations, the food bank is experiencing a 60% increase in providing food. Helping to alleviate the increase in food insecurity are the new Mega Mobile Markets, held every Friday to distribute fresh produce, protein and other nutritious food to the community.

How the markets work

Mobile markets are temporary food distribution setups all across Tarrant Area Food Bank’s 13-county service region. Empty parking lots and gymnasiums are transformed into temporary food distribution lines. Driving by on an average day, one would never know that the local church parking lot could feed hundreds of families with a truck full of food delivered once a month.

Though TAFB has held mobile markets since 2010, one thing is new as a result of COVID-19: drive thru distributions. By having families stay in their cars and volunteers and staff deposit food in their trunks, the effectiveness, speed and safety of mobile markets is maximized.

From March through July, the 136th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard assisted TAFB by packing emergency boxes and staffing these mobile distributions that are highly attended.

Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) now recruits more than 75 employees, volunteers and contract workers each Friday to provide cars in line with nearly 100 pounds of fresh food. To volunteer, sign up online.

The first Mega Mobile Market was held Aug. 14 in White Settlement with the hope of serving 500 families. Over the course of four hours, more than 750 families drove away with their cars stuffed full of fresh food.

The first TAFB Mega Mobile Market served 200 more families than anticipated. The next week, it increased again by another 200 families.

One week later, a Mega Mobile Market at Herman Clark Stadium served just over 900 families, a 20% increase in turnout. And the next week, another 22% increase that fed 1,127 families. Tarrant Area Food Bank anticipates this number will only climb as word gets out and more volunteers enlist to help the line of cars move faster.

Tarrant Area Food Bank intends to host Mega Mobile Markets until November, hoping to push thousands of pounds of food out into the community every week.

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