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Austin City Council approves resolution aimed at tackling food insecurity

The resolution, approved Thursday, directs the city manager to do a number of things to address food insecurity and strengthen the local food system.

AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin wants to make food access easier for those in need. On Thursday, the Austin City Council approved a resolution aimed at rectifying disparities in the community's food system and improving the system's infrastructure.

The resolution, Item 39 on the council's agenda Thursday, directs City Manager Spencer Cronk to:

  • create a "prioritization matrix" to identify City-owned land for strengthening the local and regional food system
  • complete a needs assessment and plan to address food insecurity and access for people experiencing homelessness
  • initiate a planning process and multi-lingual engagement strategy to create the "Austin Travis County Food System Plan"
  • review best practices regarding bond financing and other financial options to support the local and regional food system
  • pledge the City's support in advance of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November

According to a draft of the resolution, in a January memo, Dell Medical School analyzed 211 calls related to food need and information about resource availability and identified areas – including Dessau Road/East Walnut Creek, Creedmoor and East Riverside/Montopolis – as having high volumes of food need calls to 211 but "comparatively few food resources such as food pantries or distributions in [those] areas." 

The analysis also found that areas such as Wells Branch have many residents receiving distributions, but no food pantries where community members can receive food regularly.

The resolution draft also noted that Austin has no public cold storage facilities and that in 2013-2014, the City's Economic Development Department committed to researching potential locations for a slaughterhouse and food processing facilities, but those needs remain unaddressed.

Upon completing the prioritization matrix, the resolution directs the city manager to build on the work of those previous analyses to identify areas of City-owned land that can be used for: cold storage, food processing facilities, alternative agriculture production such as vertical agriculture and hydro- or aeroponics, regenerative agriculture, slaughterhouse uses and two other land-deficient food system needs to be identified by the city manager.

The resolution is sponsored by council members Kathie Tovo (District 9), Sabino "Pio" Renteria (District 3), Alison Alter (District 10), Vanessa Fuentes (District 2) and Ann Kitchen (District 5).

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