Austin's Office of Sustainability is creating the city's first-ever food plan; this will be a structure that is designed to help bridge the disparities in local food access in a more simple - and sustainable way.
The office of sustainability defines the food system as an interconnected network that includes everything that happens with food, including where and how it's grown, sold, consumed, recovered, and distributed. The food system is shaped by stakeholders, practices, and the laws that regulate both.
Edwin Marty, food policy manager of the sustainability office, says that despite Austin's food system having impeccable restaurants and grocery stores across the city, the quality and quantity of food access is bifurcated by race and poverty.
Around 40% of Travis County ZIP codes don't have a full-service grocery store, while the city of Austin alone wastes a projected 1.24 million pounds of food every day.
Travis County farmland has decreased at an alarming rate, approximately 16.8 acres of farmland is lost daily, and less than 1% of food consumed in the area is produced locally. When disasters like the Covid-19 pandemic or Winter Storm Uri hit, the inequality of our food system is even more exacerbated.
"These two combination disasters showed us, the city of Austin, that we have a lot of planning to do, and we have a lot of work to do to ensure that we have a resilient and sustainable food system. Our goal with a comprehensive food system plan is to hear from the community: What do they want to see happen in our food system? What can we do to strengthen our food system? What are some things that we as a city organization could do and how can we support our community?" - Edwin Marty.
In June of 2021, City Council directed a planning process and engagement strategy for the Austin-Travis County Food System Plan, a five-year plan crafted by experts and stakeholders. In conjunction with the future plan, the sustainability office will be publishing the city's 2022 State of the Food System, a report that will dive into the data behind trends and challenges in the local food system and include information about past food policy actions.