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Why Texas Health Is Opening a Grocery Store in a Pleasant Grove School

The health system is funding a resiliency curriculum that includes on-campus grocery stores operated by students that serve the community.
THRIVE store in Sanger Courtesy: Texas Health Resources

Texas Health Resources is launching a grocery store in a Pleasant Grove charter school as part of an expansive program that teaches students resiliency and works to improve mental and physical health.

Texas Health has helped fund Together Harnessing Resources to Give Individuals Voice and Empowerment (THRIVE) in several school districts across the region. The program includes a resiliency curriculum and access to healthy food and skill development through the operation of an on-campus grocery store.

The initiative, funded for the first two years by a Texas Health Resources community impact grant meant to address social determinants of health, launched in the alternative education center in Sanger ISD north of Dallas in 2019, after highway expansion demolished the town’s only grocery option. Texas Health partnered with First Refuge Ministries, First Baptist Church of Sanger and the City of Sanger on the curriculum. The program has expanded to Lewisville, Fort Worth, and Terrell schools, and the Inspired Vision Academy Secondary program in Pleasant Grove will be the first expansion into Dallas. Texas Health is partnering with Dallas County, Patricia and Fernando De Leon, and the United Way of Dallas to launch the Dallas THRIVE program.

THRIVE curriculum focuses on how to handle stress healthily rather than turn to drugs and alcohol. It also includes a grocery store run by students and offers them an opportunity to purchase healthy food with points given to all students depending on the size of their family. Students who demonstrate good behavior are given additional “funds” to buy extra food. The grocery store is open to the public one day a week, where the students have an opportunity to serve the community, and local families can get free healthy food.

“It is a two-for-one idea because it allowed us to provide food in these high-need areas, but the bigger issue is that it allowed us to have the students practice what they are learning in the resiliency class,” says Marsha Ingle, the senior director of Community Health Improvement for Texas Health. “One of the tenets of resiliency is to give back to the community, and these students are working and opening the grocery store to the community, and they’re providing food to other people.”

Each school can determine what works best for incorporating the grocery store into the campus. Texas Health brings equipment like freezers and refrigerators, food, and shelving. Students are trained to take inventory, stock, and order new food.

THRIVE helped more than 2,500 students at the district’s seven campuses get screened for behavior challenges in the 2021-2022 school year, with 156 students referred to wrap-around services including counseling. Resiliency scores increased by 16.7 percent and self-efficacy scores increased by 10.6 percent for students in the program. Since opening in November 2019, Sanger’s campus store has served more than 2,000 families.

On Friday, Texas Health will celebrate the program launch at Inspired Vision, where 82 percent of the 582 students are eligible for free lunch. In addition to the resiliency curriculum administered through homeroom and the grocery store, the THRIVE program will provide the school with its first-ever on-campus mental health counselor. The store will be named the Eagle’s Nest after the school’s mascot. In January, there are plans to launch an additional THRIVE campus in Fort Worth at O.D. Wyatt Middle School.

The goal, Ingle says, is for the programs to find local partners to make the program sustainable beyond the two-year pilot funded by the grant to continue making an impact on the students and communities. “We have had such great success and want to bring this program to other schools that can benefit from it,” Ingle says.


Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the senior writer for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…