A new report released by the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability features the latest available data on food in the Austin area while outlining key barriers and opportunities in the current food system. By including new data, historical context, and information on recent policy decisions, the report aims to provide a starting point for understanding Austin’s current food system. The report also helps quantify the impact of Austin’s food sector on climate change for the first time, showing that food is responsible for 21% of all greenhouse gas emissions created by everyone in our community.
The food system, as defined in the report, is the interconnected network of everything that happens with food — where and how it is grown, distributed, sold, consumed, wasted, or recovered. Food justice impacts all areas of this network, including how systemic racism and colonization impact how the food system works — or doesn't work — for each member of our community. According to findings in the report, Black individuals in Travis County are more likely to live in areas that face the highest barriers to food access.
“While Austin’s food scene is vibrant and creative with many farm-to-table restaurants and world-class grocery stores, we know that affordability and access for everyone in our community remains a challenge,” said Lucia Athens, the City of Austin’s Chief Sustainability Officer.
Data shows that around 14.4% of people in Travis County are currently experiencing food insecurity despite 1.24 million pounds of food being wasted every day in Austin. Food insecurity is when a person lacks reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food. When Austin’s first State of the Food System report was published in 2015, that number was 18%, and in 2019 it had lowered to 12.8%. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this downward trend, elevating it to 17% in 2020.
Another key issue area for Austin’s food system is local production. New data shows that only a small fraction of the food consumed in Travis County — about 0.06% — is produced locally. For the Austin metropolitan area, there is a gap of about $2.3 billion between the amount of food purchased and produced, presenting a huge economic opportunity for local production.
Using the data and information outlined in the State of the Food System report, the Office of Sustainability will launch a community co-creation process to write Austin’s first-ever Food Plan. The plan will identify specific strategies and recommendations intended to address issues in our food system. Participants in the planning process will use the report as the basis for understanding how to affect meaningful change across Austin’s food system.
“The future of our food system is guided by the actions we take today,” said Edwin Marty, the City of Austin’s Food Policy Manager. “I’m excited to use the newest State of the Food System report as a baseline to begin our food planning work in partnership with the community.”
About the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability
Austin’s Office of Sustainability works to ensure a thriving, equitable, and ecologically resilient community by providing leadership, influencing positive action through engagement, and creating measurable benefits for Austin. The office works to achieve net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, a healthy and just local food system, resource-efficient strategies for municipal operations, tangible projects that demonstrate sustainability, and a resilient and adaptive city. Find out more at www.austintexas.gov/