By Dawn Cobb, Contributing Writer
In a Krum storefront, the owners of a Ponder farm busily pack 25-lb. boxes of fruits and vegetables to feed the hungry across Denton County.
Keith and Kassandra Copp, who operate the 40-acre Denton Creek Farm, are in a contract with Denton County to provide up to 3,000 boxes filled with fresh produce each week.
In August 2020, the Denton County Commissioners Court approved the first agreement with the Copps to provide the boxes at a cost of $37 each as part of the Feeding Denton County program. The Commissioners Court earmarked $10 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds distributed from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to Denton County to ensure residents did not go hungry.
“We learned from our local food pantries that fresh fruits and vegetables were not always readily available for our residents in need,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell. “”Feeding Denton County’ is one way that we can ensure our residents have nutritious meals available for them and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Copps purchase produce from local and regional growers when it is available as well as from farms around the U.S. as needed to create a box with between 10 to 13 different varieties of fruits and vegetables.
“We want to make sure our Denton County farms are feeding people locally,” said Denton County Judge Andy Eads. “This program not only provides nutritional food to families who need it but also helps support our local growers and keeps people employed.”
To date, more than 42,000 boxes have been delivered to non-profit and church food pantries across the county.
After moving to Denton County 25 years ago, the Copps began growing their own vegetables to feed their family. Ten years later, they began selling the food they grew through farmers markets and later a Lewisville store off Interstate 35E before the highway expansion took the business. Eventually, they began a box program.
“We gravitated to the box program before working with the county,” said Keith Copp. When the possibility arose to help feed the hungry, they knew they were prepared to assist.
“We knew what was going to be involved and we could put it together efficiently,” Kassandra Copp said.
Food orders for the next week’s boxes begin on Thursdays. Each week, two semi-trailer loads of fruits and vegetables arrive at their Krum warehouse just south of McCart Street on Britton Street.
“We were fortunate to hire some good people to help with this project,” Keith Copp said. “It has made it a little easier.”
A team of 12 build boxes beginning on Sundays to make sure the first load is ready for delivery by 5:30 a.m. on Mondays to area non-profit food pantries such as Denton Community Food Center, Metrocrest Services in Carrollton and NTX Food Pantry in The Colony. Then they head to Lewisville for food pantries at Christian Community Action and the Salvation Army. Keith and Kassandra Copp coordinate with food pantries each week and deliver the boxes just before the volunteers give them out to residents in need.
“For some that do not have coolers, we make deliveries twice a week to keep from leaving the produce out,” Keith Copp said. Some food pantries in the Feeding Denton County program operate out of churches and smaller non-profits.
“They (residents) deserve something good to eat. We work very hard to make sure they get quality food for their families,” Kassandra Copp said.
The experience has shown both how important the Feeding Denton County program is and how hard the non-profit food pantries work to keep Denton County residents fed.
“I’ve never been exposed to what is needed out there,” Keith Copp said. “I was amazed at what all they have to do and the detail of their operations. It is non-stop.
“What has been more rewarding to me is the positive attitude I’ve seen,” he said. “The volunteers are people that care.”
Dawn Cobb is Director of Community Relations for Denton County.