SANGER, Texas – A community garden is beginning to take shape in Sanger that will soon supply fresh fruits and vegetables for a unique grocery store inside Linda Tutt High School as well as for others in need in Denton County.
Called Community Strong Farms, the garden is supported by a Texas Health Resources Community Health Impact grant.
In all, Texas Health has awarded two grants to the Sanger Independent School District, totaling more than $594,000, to work with community partners to address issues like food insecurity and to teach resiliency skills needed to help overcome childhood trauma.
“One in four children have experienced adverse childhood events in their life,” said Danelle Parker, director of Community Health Improvement at Texas Health for Collin, Denton and Wise counties. Parker said such events can be anything traumatic, including risk for homelessness, food insecurity, behavioral health, domestic violence, substance abuse or the loss of a loved one.
“If you can teach kids early on how to be resilient from what life throws at them, through coping mechanisms and other tools like that, you can improve their mental health and decrease the amount of anxiety and depression they will experience as adults,” Parker said.
With the first grant awarded in 2019, Sanger ISD and its partners deployed THRIVE (Together Harnessing Resources to give Individuals Voice and Empowerment). The program provided students at Linda Tutt High School with resiliency skills training and support services including counseling and low-cost or free medical and mental health care.
The grant also supported the start up of a grocery store inside the school, giving students and their families convenient access to healthy foods. The store does not accept money but rather points that can be earned by students who perform good deeds or exhibit kind or resilient behaviors.
“Students can help provide for their families, so there’s a self-efficacy component, and the grocery store allows them a place to practice some of the behavior modification skills they’re learning,” Parker said. “The store is student-run, and we frequently hear from the kids who work in the store that they feel so much pride in being able to help serve their community.”
Under the first grant, more than 280 families were served through the grocery store, gaining access to approximately 12,600 pounds of food.
Paul Juarez, executive director of First Refuge Ministries, who had first envisioned starting a grocery store inside a school, said the Texas Health grants helped make that dream and so many more take flight.
“Texas Health is a yellow brick road for everything that we could ever hope and imagine,” Juarez said. “The grants have allowed us to do what we already do, which is work well together to serve the community by providing us the funding and support to be able to do that. And it was more than just a grocery store; Texas Health allowed us to expand all our services and do a whole lot more than we were doing.”
The second grant, awarded earlier this year, has allowed the district to expand the THRIVE program to even more students and help fund the community garden, located on 14 acres of land near East Milam Road and Tilley Lane donated by the New Life Church of Denton.
Currently, workers are busy setting up electricity at the garden and constructing a building that will be used for storage and to hold classes for district students to learn about gardening. Produce grown in the garden, which is expected to provide its first harvest in the spring, will supply the grocery store and other community food banks and be sold at a farmers market, with proceeds helping to fund the garden.
The THRIVE program and grocery store have been so successful that Texas Health is working to duplicate these efforts in other communities of need. With help from a $30,000 grant from Albertsons, Delay Middle School in Lewisville will open up a grocery store by the end of the year.
The Texas Health Resources Foundation is working to raise $2.6 million to expand THRIVE services into 10 new locations throughout North Texas by 2024. Those interested in contributing can do so at https://www.texashealth.org/community-health/community-impact.
About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 29 hospital locations under the banners of Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,100 licensed hospital beds, 6,400 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 26,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org.