Office of sustainability leading the regional food plan

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Tuesday May 31st, 2022 by Willow Higgins

The Austin Office of Sustainability is working on foreground fooda coordination structure designed to help bridge disparities in access to local food in a sustainable way.

While Austin’s food system includes state-of-the-art restaurants and grocery stores across the city, the quality and quantity of access to food is bifurcated by race and poverty, policy officer Edwin Marty explained. sustainability office food, at the Parks and Recreation Commission. Some statistics are grim. Nearly 40% of Travis County zip codes don’t have a full-service grocery store, while the city of Austin alone wastes an estimated 1.24 million pounds of food every day. Farmland in Travis County is also shrinking at an unprecedented rate – approximately 16.8 acres of farmland is lost every day and less than 1% of the food consumed in the region is produced locally. When disasters like the Covid-19 pandemic or winter storm Uri hit, the inequality of our food system is further exacerbated.

“These two disasters combined have shown us in the City of Austin that we have a lot of planning to do and we have a lot of work to do to make sure we have a resilient and sustainable food system,” Marty said. .

“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 we could do as a municipal organization and how can we support our community? »

In June of last year, the city council led a planning process and engagement strategy for the Austin-Travis County Food System Plan, a five-year plan developed by experts and stakeholders.

Along with the future plan, the office of sustainability will soon release the city’s State of the Food System 2022, a report that will dive into the data behind local food system trends and challenges and include information on past actions in food policy.

The plan is in its early stages and Marty updated the parks board on the work of the sustainability office as an introduction to the project. Currently, the office is working to assemble the right team to execute the project, hiring a team of consultants who will help lead the process alongside the office of sustainability. They also form a community advisory committee to guide the planning process. The group will be made up of about 20 to 25 people from “our wonderful diverse community … who represent various parts of our food system,” Marty said. Once the consultant team has been approved by City Council and onboarded this summer, the CCC recruitment process will begin.

“In addition to the … committee, we will also have community advisory groups,” he said. “These will be targeted problem areas – you can imagine community gardens or school or city gardens (forestry).” Participation will be accompanied by financial compensation to ensure fair representation of groups.

The recruitment and selection process for the advisory board and groups will begin this fall, and the plan itself is expected to be developed and delivered by mid-2023. In the meantime, the Office of Sustainability is focusing on raising awareness.

“The main thing we want you to know is that we’re interested in your input on who needs to be involved in the planning process,” Marty told the parks board. “We can’t come up with a good food system plan without having the right people involved. So here is my call to action for you – come back soon and let us know who you think should be involved in the Community Advisory Board and Focus Groups and we will do our best to…create the best system plan possible food. ”

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