DALLAS — The Tarrant Area Food Bank had just one simple request: a huge, vacant parking lot.
It was a task the Cotton Bowl and the Dallas Cowboys could easily provide.
The Tarrant Area Food Bank held their "Meals for Moms Mega Mobile Market" on Tuesday, distributing food to almost 4,000 families that drove through Silver Lot 4 outside AT&T Stadium.
"This is a huge parking lot," Tarrant Area Food Bank President Julie Butner said.
"There aren't very many parking lots of this size that can accommodate a Mega Mobile Market. So, having their support at this location, which is an icon in our community, centrally located in our service area. This is where our community members need our support. It's huge and a wonderful, wonderful thing that they are doing for the food bank," said Butner.
The Meals for Moms Mega Mobile Market isn't just for moms; it is for anyone who needs food assistance, as food insecurities have been on the rise throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
One Tarrant County woman said the event was "right on time" as her husband, a dialysis patient, had been laid off from his retail job in January.
Though the scores of clients who lined the parking lot were on a financial rollercoaster, Butner says the event is designed to give the financially struggling a smoother ride.
"People are always in crisis whether they lose a job, they lose a spouse, they lose some source of income," Butner said. "They're stretched. Their dollar is stretched. That's what we're here for is to help support so people don't have to make decisions about eating. They can make decisions about paying other bills. There's food on the table for them and their families."
Another such individual was Kevin from Arlington, who appreciated the Tarrant Area Food Bank's event. As a construction worker, jobs had come to a halt for Kevin due to the rising price of material costs.
"Unless you go out to the country, you're going to drive 100 miles to find a place to buy $100 worth of materials, it's going to cost you a whole bunch of money just to get there and back," Kevin said. "It doesn't make sense."
According to Butner, the source of the food is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and their network of 170 grocer partners along with financial support and volunteerism.
The Tuesday event was a soft relaunch of the same event around Mother's Day in 2020. However, due to uncertainties surrounding the virus in May of 2020, the turnout wasn't as profound. Nevertheless, Butner and the Tarrant Area Food Bank decided to have the event once more.
"We reached out to our friends at AT&T Stadium, and said, 'Hey, we're looking for a place. Do you have a willingness to let us host it again?' And they did. And you can see that many of their employees are out here volunteering and helping and supporting the efforts," said Butner.
Cotton Bowl President Rick Baker, who oversees the college football postseason game that has been in the D-FW community for 85 years, was pleased to help the food bank.
"These are the friends and neighbors that have supported us for all of those years," said Baker. "And, so, we feel an obligation to be able to try to help those that really need help. And, so, we were all in. From the get-go, we were all in. We really felt that this was a good partnership, something that we really wanted to be part of. We're certainly proud to be a partner with the Tarrant Area Food Bank."
Cowboys Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer Charlotte Jones Anderson said the franchise was pleased to lend assistance to their local partners in the community.
"The Cowboys take great pride in participating in food distribution efforts and supporting those in need, especially this year during unprecedented times because of the pandemic," Anderson told WFAA.com.
"AT&T Stadium has proven to be helpful as a distribution location for community outreach events, and we are happy to make it available today for the Tarrant Area Food Bank and our great partners at the Cotton Bowl," said Anderson.
Another Cowboys partner, Whataburger, was on hand to distribute meals to the volunteers, which included the Arlington Police Department and the National Guard.
"We were invited as a partner from the Dallas Cowboys and the Cotton Bowl team to be out here and we're going to help serve all of the volunteers because they have over 200 volunteers that signed up to help distribute food today, and we're going to help feed them after they get done working because they've been working for several hours already and they got a few more to go," Whataburger Field Brand Development Regional Manager Julie Piel-Lopez said.
The Tarrant Area Food Bank hopes to hold a similar event around Thanksgiving time, according to Butner.
More information on the Tarrant Area Food Bank can be found at https://tafb.org/.