Food insecurity and access

Austin, TX
United States

Using listening sessions and quantitative data to strengthen food access infrastructure in central Texas, El Buen seeks to understand the structural conditions affecting low-income Latino/a residents in Austin and address health inequities.

Although food pantries are considered emergency food providers, many residents with low incomes in central Texas have come to rely on them as a regular resource for their household nutritional needs. Because access to affordable, sustainable, nutritious, high-quality, and culturally connected food is a central component of good health, El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission (El Buen) seeks to strengthen existing food access infrastructure and better understand barriers to access in the community. Residents of Austin’s Eastern Crescent community are primarily Latino/a and experience higher levels of unemployment, poverty, uninsurance, and educational attainment compared with residents in the rest of the city. These disparities have further exacerbated food insecurity and health inequities. By centering the lived experiences of food program clients to develop sustainable food access infrastructure in central Texas, El Buen seeks to reimagine food access without retrenching existing systemic biases.  

El Buen will supplement publicly available demographic, socioeconomic, and geospatial data with program data and qualitative data from a series of listening sessions (pláticas). The pláticas will engage regular El Buen food program clients as equal partners in this investigation as they share their experiences with food access and insecurity and identify potential strategies and investments. El Buen will also give participants referrals to additional resources if needed. This mixed-methods approach is designed to reflect the priorities and experiences of the plática participants and will allow El Buen, a trusted food provider in the community for 35 years, to gain a comprehensive, community-focused view of existing food assets and barriers to food access. 

El Buen and its partners will use the data from this project to strengthen food access infrastructure in central Texas and better serve community members. They will share the findings with participants from the pláticas in a final summit to ensure that they are reflective of participants’ experiences and to guide next steps. They will also present the data to key food access decisionmakers such as the Austin City Council, City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability, and Central Texas Food Bank.