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The Food Equity Innovation Challenge aims to bring more fresh, affordable food to neighborhoods in and around Dallas using collaborative, system-focused approaches. The Challenge was created by the W.W. Caruth Jr. Fund team at CFT in partnership with the City of Dallas and the State Fair of Texas to incubate projects that operate strategically across the food ecosystem, break down silos between organizations working in the food space, and elevate the perspectives of residents who navigate food desert communities everyday. It is a unique effort that reflects CFT’s commitment to adaptive, participatory grantmaking.



Access to healthy food is a persistent challenge in the Dallas area. Almost 20% of Dallas County residents are food insecure and do not have convenient access to fruits and vegetables through a local grocery store. This problem affects large parts of our area including neighborhoods in Garland, East Plano, and Tarrant County. 
The good news is that there are many groups across different sectors that have recognized the issue and taken steps to address it. Churches, food pantries, community based-organizations, academic institutions, hospitals, policy advocates, and public health authorities are involved in various efforts to leverage the good will, land, and other assets of our region to solve for some aspect of the broken food system. But those operating in this field face ongoing challenges related to coordination, funding, and capacity. This became clear when a 2018 call for proposals by Caruth yielded more than 20 applications from different groups seeking to improve healthy food access in the Southern Sector of Dallas alone.

Our Approach

The Food Equity Innovation Challenge encompasses four core phases that have allowed participants to clarify assets in the field, listen to experts and community members, build the capacity for greater collaboration, and align funding.

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  • The problem of access to healthy food exists within a broader food ecosystem. This system contains five interdependent components represented in this graphic. 
  • To understand the assets within each of those components, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP’s Analytics team created an interactive map that aligns public and crowdsourced data to bring transparency and geographic specificity to the discussion. This map is a living, public document that will continue to be updated as new data sources become available and outcomes change. It is a source of accountability for the effort. 

  • About 40 professionals working in the food system, primarily in Southern Dallas, were invited to a discussion at the State Fair in June 2019. The goals of the gathering were trust building and visioning. They shared insights and asked key questions. A summary of the convening was compiled into this report. 
View the Healthy Food Access Report
  • Given the importance of community voice in this stage, we aligned this effort with the City of Dallas Innovation Office’s launch of the Food Idea Innovation Challenge. The website enables community members to submit ideas to reduce food insecurity. It is open through November 21, 2019 and is being widely marketed to Spanish and English speaking communities. View the website

  • Five design teams were formed from individuals representing organizations across the food spectrum to improve access to healthy food through collaborative, system-focused approaches. They will combine their own expertise with the asset maps and community-generated solutions to develop innovative proposals that can be funded by Caruth. Design teams are organized in the following areas:
    • Connecting assets through improved logistics
    • Creating new retail/ distribution points
    • Leveraging existing retail/distribution points
    • Increasing consumption by making health food delicious
    • Advocacy and impact

  • A judging panel representing CFT, the City of Dallas, and the State Fair will come together to evaluate the proposals. Each will provide a mix of funding, technical assistance, marketing, and policy support.
  • Follow the work of the design teams through these blog posts. We will post summaries of all of the proposals on this site, and publish the outcomes from the pilots that are funded.

The measure of success of the Food Equity Innovation Challenge will be more integrated, responsive food distribution systems that meet people where they are and produce less waste. We anticipate that this process will yield alternative “out of the box” ideas, and thanks to the strategic partnerships along the way, a pathway to sustainable change.

Meet the Design Teams

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Food Assets Map

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The Food Asset Map, created by bcWORKSHOP, walks through key categories in the food access ecosystem of Southern Dallas and provides examples of how background data and asset mapping can be paired to identify areas for specific interventions. Existing healthy food assets, including businesses, organizations and nonprofits, have been sorted into 5 groups based on the activities they conduct: supply, distribution, consumption, impact, and advocacy.

Download the Mapbook 

Based on ideas that were crowd-sourced from various stakeholders in the food access ecosystem, a new initiative and potential for collaboration and funding arose where said stakeholders could participate in design teams and work on specific ideas to design a potential solution to the healthy food access issue. The Playbook walks through how we got to each design team, and has the initial process and steps that will take place for those who signed up to participate.

Download the Playbook Here

The online platform for submitting food solutions is now closed.

Visit the City of Dallas’ innovation platform to see which ideas scored highest.