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South Dallas Neighborhood Growing Food & Jobs

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Finding healthy and reasonably priced food in some Dallas neighborhoods is tough to say the least, so residents in one historic African-American area are taking matters into their own hands.

A non-profit is now helping residents in Bonton – an area of south Dallas sandwiched between Hatcher Street and Central Expressway – grow and raise their own food.

Thinking back, area resident Daris Lee said, "It was rough. Bonton was a rough place to grow up in."

The creation and success of Bonton Farms has Lee marveling at the fresh vegetables growing near his home. Access to the food and produce is far different from when Lee was a child. He says just getting groceries was a complicated affair.

"We would have to go around and take lists from different family members and neighbors, so we could do it [shop for food] all in one trip. Because the idea of somebody having to catch the bus… that's a three-hour trip, going and coming."

Now, at 41-years-old, Lee has congestive heart disease and failing kidneys. His medical condition isn't unusual for people in the area.

Daron Babcock, the vice president of community development for the Good-Works Company and H.I.S. Bridgebuilders, a Bonton nonprofit ministry, and fellow Bonton neighbor said, "Our rates of diabetes, cancer, stroke and cardiovascular [disease] are double that of the city of Dallas. There's no explanation other than the nutrition."

Babcock encouraged Lee and others living in the area to make better food choices. "They said, 'what choice do we have?' And that's when it struck me: this is wrong. In our city, five minutes from downtown, we have communities that don't have access to food."

So out of what he calls an 'act of defiance', Babcock planted a garden. He was already working with H.I.S. Bridgebuilders to help restore lives… so they decided to start from the ground up.

Looking at some of the seeds recently planted Babcock explained, "They'll germinate into cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens -- everything that grows through the winter."

Using aquaponics, they grow both vegetables and raise fish commercially, tilapia to be exact.

An alley in the neighborhood was turned into a chicken run, to provide fresh eggs. When the effort expands next year - they've secured six vacant lots at the end of the street – Bonton Farms will also provide jobs.

Michael Craven, CEO of the Good Works Company, said, "Charity does not reinforce human dignity. Charity has a place. But, I would argue; it's temporary. We're made to work."

There are common issues that areas in urban cities face but Babcock said, "It's not okay to have a community in our city where people are dying, because they don't have healthy food."

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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