Food For All: An Inclusive Look at Neighborhood Food Planning
From South by Southwest to barbecue and breakfast tacos, Austin has built a reputation as livable city, attracting travelers and new residents from all over the country. But rapid growth has also brought pressing issues. Recent studies show Austin to be the most racially and economically segregated metropolitan city in the country. This inequality is marked by limited access to basic needs, such as fresh, healthy food. In fact, one in four Austin households face food-insecurity; they are unsure of where their next meal might come from.
To learn more, our office partnered with graduate students from the University of Texas, LBJ School of Public Affairs (led by Dr. Erin Lentz and Dr. Raj Patel) to explore food access in the North Central Austin/Rundberg area. The research team sought to look at the food system as experienced by residents – where they get food, how they get there, and how are decisions made about what to feed their families. Here’s what we found:
The area bounded by Braker Lane (North), Metric Boulevard (West), 183 (South), Dessau Road (East) and encompassing zip codes 78753 and 78758.
BARRIERS TO FOOD ACCESS
Residents faced four major challenges to access healthy food: Access to information and resources; Availability of nutritious food in their neighborhoods; the Accessibility of food for residents who don’t own vehicles; and Affordability in a city that grows more expensive every day.
AVAILABILITY – people who live in this area are unable to find good
AFFORDABILITY – residents are unable to afford healthy food given competing financial pressures, such as rent and transportation costs
AWARENESS – there is a lack of culturally appropriate information about healthy food, where to find it, and how to prepare it
ACCESSIBILITY– residents are unable to access food sources due to a lack of public transportation and safe sidewalks
The following recommendations aim to increase the quality and availability of information about healthy food, and to ensure that the information provided is culturally appropriate, accurate, and accessible for residents in the North Central Austin/Rundberg area.
- Ensure higher food quality and safety through frequent inspections
- Monitor Healthy Corner Store initiatives to support retailers with stocking fresh fruits and vegetables
- Provide incentives for retailers to supply fresh produce and other nutritious foods
- Ensure smaller retailers accept SNAP / WIC
- Implement a Double Dollar SNAP / WIC program at food retailers
- Advocate for higher citywide income and affordable housing
- Develop community hubs to disseminate information about healthy foods
- Facilitate information sharing through community partnerships
- Provide information about food and SNAP benefits and enrollment in a wider variety of languages
- Require a food impact analysis for all new transportation projects
- Improve and maintain transportation infrastructure, including bus stops, sidewalks, street lighting
- Expand senior transportation programs