Providing Healthy Food without Displacing Communities
Although Austin, Texas, is often ranked as a healthy city, it also has high rates of food insecurity and obesity, especially among low-income populations. However, opening grocery stores in low-income food deserts can have the unintended effect of increasing property values, risking displacement of long-time residents.
Austin launched the Healthy Foods Access Initiative to provide alternatives for physical and economic access to healthy food. The initiative includes different strategies, such as financial incentives to purchase fruit and vegetables, strategic placement of mobile produce trucks and farm stands at schools and housing complexes, and stocking produce in corner stores and gas stations.
Researchers at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin, in collaboration with Sustainable Food Center, are modeling the impact of these strategies on people’s fruit and vegetable purchase and consumption, and food security. The results will inform the best ways to implement and expand healthy food initiatives.
In addition, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, FFAR expanded the existing grant to the researchers to assess how food systems — especially emergency food systems — operate and adapt in times of stress.
Why this research is important
This research is modeling how a multipronged approach to promoting healthy diets best provides access and education without risking gentrification.
- Growers will gain new markets in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
- Small neighborhood stores will have easier access to healthier food for their customers.
- Low-income neighborhoods and communities of color will have easier physical and economic access to healthy, affordable, nutritious food.
- The models created through this grant will provide the City of Austin with strategies to increase food resiliency among low-income households.