Kirk Jackson, community activist and urban planner for LINK Houston
Throughout his career, Jackson has worked tirelessly to improve the health of Third Ward residents by providing access to healthy food in the community. Jackson maintained a focus on health and wellness through various endeavors in the Third Ward.
His passion first began in 2010 when the former TSU student, along with professors and other graduate students, had an idea for a vacant property on campus. With his background in Urban Planning and Environmental Policy, Jackson helped Blodgett Urban Gardens, a local urban garden, blossom into a cornerstone of access to healthy food in the community.
"It was tough from the beginning but we constantly worked at building the garden and expanding it and finally became a thriving productive space that provided vegetables and fresh produce for the community," Jackson said. "That is where I found the most reward in being a part of that garden because I knew we would make a difference in the food insecurity overall in Third Ward."
A resident and voice of the Third Ward community, Jackson helped expand the access to this fresh produce by partnering with Urban Harvest to ensure SNAP benefits were accepted and other benefits programs were useable by clients. Jackson was part of a research team with Rice University that did a community assessment on Third Ward residents. Through their findings, Jackson learned that 51 percent of Third Ward households reported that they had experienced some type of food insecurity in a 30-day period.
"Right there that triggered my instincts and also they needed something that had to be done," Jackson said. "So the garden was playing an intricate part already in combatting food insecurity, however, I knew there needed to be more done to combat food insecurity in Third Ward."
During the pandemic, Jackson identified unique issues related to food accessibility and mainly, a lack of coordination among food distribution sites that resulted in mismanaged resources (both food and personnel.). Jackson founded the Third Ward Health Collaborative. He worked with leaders from various community-based organizations to create "one table" for all to gather and work towards common goals.
The person who nominated Jackson writes:
"Kirk Jackson is a pillar of the Third Ward community. He has remained rooted in Third Ward and has shown incredible dedication through getting involved in all neighborhood efforts. He is the most well-known attendee in all meetings he attends and is trusted widely by community residents. He works to lift up everyone he encounters, always ready to listen, offer input and guidance, but remains flexible and open to new ideas."
Jackson's next goal is to take his work one step further to combat food insecurities through his new non-profit, Everybody Eats.
"What Everybody Eats will do is to provide a source of food any day of the week, at any given time, for anybody who needs it," Jackson said. "It will also bring together a network of all the organizations that are involved with food, giveaways, pantries, dealing with the food insecurity issue, it will provide a network of resources so that the communication will be in place so that one church won't have a food give way at the same day and same time three blocks from another."
As a Houston Texans BOLD Award presented by Coca-Cola recipient, Jackson will receive $5,000 to use towards a non-profit of his choice. His will be Everybody Eats. Jackson calls it "a miracle," being able to kick start Everybody Eats to help Third Ward residents reach food independence.
"Everybody Eats will definitely benefit from having a $5,000 foundation to work with," Jackson said. "Of course, we'll be writing other grants, find another benefactor, donors and monitor resources but this is a great start and great beginning for the organization."
To learn more about Jackson's work, visit The Third Ward Health Collaborative.