Food

New report says many people still struggle with access to food in Travis County

New report says many people still struggle with access to food in Travis County
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The State of the Food System report found that 14.4% of people in Travis County experience food insecurity.

AUSTIN, Texas – Although Austin is home to legendary breakfast tacos and farm-to-table restaurants, affordability and access to food remain a challenge for many.

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The State of the Food System report shows that food insecurity in Travis County has continued to rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic caused massive disruptions in all industries, right down to the way food is produced, both locally and nationally.

As the recovery from the effects of the pandemic continues, more than 14.4% of Travis County’s population remains food insecure. By 2020, when the pandemic first struck, that number had also increased to 14.4%.

The biggest difference from 2020, according to the report, is that “in March and April 2020, the total call volume increased by 51.7% to 2-1-1 and 160.5% more calls related to food needs.” It is clear that people in emergency when the pandemic first started.

But experts worry why, two years later, the numbers are still high.

RELATED: Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry Sees 41% Increase in People Needing Food Aid

Despite all the local food Texas produces, only 0.06% of what is consumed is local. According to the report, this results in a higher carbon footprint and food that is less fresh and more expensive.

Edwin Marty, food policy manager for the city of Austin, said there is little infrastructure to support agriculture and ranching.

“And by infrastructure I mean processing facilities and aggregation facilities,” Marty said. “Places that make it easier for farmers to process and store the food they’ve produced or the animals they’ve raised in a way that makes it easier to sell it over time.”

That’s why Marty said much of the food produced is exported to other places, processed and exported back to Texas, driving up costs.

Urban farms and community gardens are allowed all over Austin with a permit, but barriers could deter low-income and colored communities from participating, according to the report.

RELATED: Austin has 33 food deserts. Local leaders working on solutions

Grim things that were institutionalized a long time ago still affect communities in mainly East Austin, Southeast Austin,” Marty said. “So those communities often don’t have access to a full-service grocery store for many reasons. And it’s hard to encourage the profitable grocery stores to build in those neighborhoods.”

The city has signed a contract with a local non-profit to hopefully build a community food store to improve access to food. It said it will continue to work to ensure everyone has equal access to food.

Marty said this new report is considered the first step in creating the “Austin Food Plan.” The plan will work towards a fairer and more sustainable food system. If you would like to participate in making the plan, you will find the interest form here.

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