DALLAS — There are neighborhoods in South Dallas, zip code 75216 being one prime example, where fresh produce can be difficult to find.
While there are offerings at multiple convenience stores, major retail grocery stores are several miles away.
The food desert problem is something Baylor Scott & White Health and Wellness has been trying to improve for nearly a decade now "one person, one family, one community at a time."
If you go for a drive in the South Dallas neighborhood near the intersection of Bonnie View Road and Cummings Street in search of a legitimate grocery store, you will find one: a Walmart Supercenter. But it's 4.2 miles away.
The next standalone grocery store would be a Fiesta Mart. But it's roughly three miles to the northwest. Other than convenience stores, those are your closest options.
Or you can stop a the Cummings Recreation Center, take a right turn at the fitness room, and visit David Edwards behind a very large basket of collard greens.
"It's about giving people the opportunity and platform to do the things that they really know they need to do," said Edwards, with Baylor Scott & White Health and Wellness Center.
The recreation center is one of seven sites where Baylor Scott & White offers fresh produce for sale as part of the Farm Stand program.
At Cummings, the produce is available every Thursday afternoon.
"The food that is sold here is at the highest of quality," said Dr. Donald Wesson, president of Baylor Scott & White Health and Wellness.
Wesson stresses that they chose a site like the recreation center on purpose.
"Because we have recognized the recipe for health is medical care, nutrition, and physical activity," he said.
Since 2010, there have been a total of seven locations like this across South Dallas. From fitness and community centers to churches, the farm stands are open at each site at least once a week.
In total, they get about 10,000 customers a year. The goal is to make an impact on the South Dallas food desert problem and to improve a community plagued with high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes by changing the way people eat.
"I come to this farm stand every Thursday," said Annie Johnson.
The Cummings Recreation Center is just a three-block walk from her home.
"So now I don't have to go anyplace but right here," she said. "I just come right up here and get everything I need."
"And I just like everything about it," added Dorothy Mosby, 79. "Because when you eat fresh food it makes you feel better, makes you look better, makes you act better."
And with all the good stuff that healthy food can bring, the farm stands also offer better cooking advice to their customers. For example, the fresh collard greens they sell can still be part of a good diet, but that may mean cooking with coconut oil instead of fatback and salt.
"Here we can actually educate them and let them know this is what this is good for," said Edwards, who coordinates services at the multiple locations.
"We do them together," Wesson said of the produce sales and health education efforts. "Because we know that's the recipe that supports health."
It's a recipe they hope to replicate as many times and at as many locations as funding allows, changing as many lives as they can.
"And so that allows us to carry out our mission," Wesson said. "Improving the health of our city one person, one family, one community at a time."
Baylor Scott & White Farm Stand locations:
Baylor Scott & White Health and Wellness Center at the Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center
- 4500 Spring Ave. Dallas 75210
- Fridays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
St. Paul Baptist Church
- 1600 Pear St., Dallas, 75215
- Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Greater Bethlehem Baptist Church
- 7031 Forney Road, Dallas 75227
- Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Beth Eden Baptist Church
- 1125 E. Red Bird Lane, Dallas 75241
- Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cummings Recreation Center
- 2976 Cummings, Dallas 75216
- Thursdays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Anita A. Martinez Recreation Center
- 3212 N. Winnetka Ave. Dallas 75212
- Wednesdays 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Dallas County Health and Human Services
- 2377 N. Stemmons Fwy, Dallas 75207
- 2nd and 4th Thursday
- 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.