ATX Together: Food Insecurity

Posted on November 16, 2020

ATX Together: Food Insecurity is now available to stream.
This Thanksgiving will be very different for many. Judy Maggio speaks with Derrick Chubbs, CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, Edwin Marty, Food Policy Manager for the City of Austin and Joi Chevalier of Austin-Travis County Food Policy Board to discuss what the pandemic and job losses mean for Central Texans facing food insecurity, some for the first time in their lives.

If you need food assistance or you want to help local organizations that are helping feed our neighbors, please see the resource links below the commentary.

Our Special Correspondent for this episode is Robert Nathan Allen, Executive Director of Little Herds.
Robert Nathan Allen

In February of this year one out of ten households in Texas was food insecure. One in five households with children was food insecure. By May in Texas, food insecurity was hitting almost one in four households without children and almost one in three households with children. Hispanic and Black households were already disproportionately impacted by hunger and food insecurity before the pandemic, and those inequities have only been made worse. Austin has never seen the threat of hunger at this level, and the need shows no sign of slowing down as we look toward the end of the year.

When the pandemic hit, Austin faced dual economic blows; businesses closed and jobs were lost because of the pandemic like in many other cities. Austin’s spike in need was also exacerbated by the cancellation of SXSW, concerts, graduations and other large live events, throwing the local hospitality and service industries into even greater crisis, forcing many businesses to close, some permanently.

Many Austinites had never experienced food insecurity, but were always a paycheck or a medical bill away. Since then, hundreds of thousands of community members in and around Austin have been dealing with hunger on an unprecedented level. Pandemic related resources like expanded unemployment benefits were able to provide much needed help for a time, but as those benefits have expired or been pared back, more people are facing mounting debt and looming evictions. This means more people are quickly facing impossible choices, between paying for food, rent or medicine, after already living frugally, judiciously and with increasingly tighter belts.

Local groups like Keep Austin Fed, Caritas, Central Texas Food Bank, AISD, Meals on Wheels Central Texas, Mobile Loaves & Fishes and more have all stepped up in unprecedented ways to help address the surge in hunger. Numerous smaller homegrown initiatives have also responded to the increased need, like Keep Austin Together, Good Work Austin’s Community Kitchen, Black Women In Business, Farmshare’s mobile grocery, Hundred for Hospitality and The Other Ones Foundation. Even individual restaurants like Slab BBQ, Chinatown and Tso’s Delivery have been providing food to communities facing hunger. Millions of meals have been shared with those in need, but many more will be needed in the coming months.

Now that we're approaching the end of the year, with a looming increase in positive virus cases, increased illness with flu season and even fewer resources readily available as federal and state leaders continue to pass the buck, we see a holiday season that could be bleaker than any in living memory.

It is at a time like this that we need everyone to come together in our community, to ensure that the least of us is cared for. While many people have the fortune and the privilege to be safe and sound, so so many do not — it is imperative for those who have much to ask what more they can do for those who have so little.

Our response as a city, a county, as Central Texas will be measured by how those in need were treated and cared for during holidays meant to celebrate plenty. Together we can work to bridge this gap and ensure that we all get through this dark time as best we can. Let's emerge in 2021 as a community that came together in crisis to lift each other up, shared the burden and approached our neighbors with an eye toward equity, justice, empathy and compassion. Every person can make a difference, and every gift, even the smallest, can literally change a life. Join us in celebrating community leaders making a difference, and learn how to get involved to make this a happier holiday for every one of us.

Sources: Texas A&M AgriLife, NPR, Feeding America


Any Baby Can - services to families with young children
Austin Voices - food distribution for families
Black Mamas ATX - helping Black mothers survive and thrive
Black Women in Business - essential support from coalition of businesses and community members
Buy Nothing Project - free goods and food
Caritas - working to end homelessness in Austin
Central Texas Food Bank - sharing free food to individuals and families in need
Connect ATX - United Way - substantial list of food pantries
Daniel Nunn Foundation - annual turkey day meal
Del Valle Community Coalition - providing support to families in Del Valle
Dove Springs Proud - community group supporting Dove Springs area
Drive A Senior - meeting mobility needs for Austin’s seniors
El Buen Samaritano - community food pantry
Family Eldercare - care for seniors and adults with disabilities
Farmshare - increasing access to healthy local food through mobile grocery program
Free Fridge Project (Eater Austin article) - free food in refrigerators around Austin
Go Austin Vamos Austin (GAVA) - supporting health and wellness of families in Dove Springs in 78744 and 78755
Good Work Austin’s Community Kitchen - restaurant coalition preparing meals for local emergency food programs
Hundred For Hospitality - Austin service industry relief program
Keep Austin Fed - reducing hunger and helping the environment through food recovery and redistribution
Keep Austin Together - distributing prepared meals through partnering service providers
Meals on Wheels Central Texas - delivering meals to Central Texas seniors
Mobile Loaves & Fishes - providing food to neighbors who are homeless
Operation Turkey - Thanksgiving meals to neighbors experiencing homelessness
River City Youth Watch - support for youth and families in Dove Springs area
Safe Table - prepared meals for seniors through partner pantries
Saffron Trust Women’s Foundation - supporting health and wellness of women
Save The Food Austin - food recovery and donations
Serafina Bread Pantry - community food pantry
Ten Thousand Fearless First Responders - emergency preparedness and disaster response
The Cook’s Nook - culinary incubator
The Nourish Foundation - providing food and essentials for families in need
The Other Ones Foundation - aid to people who are homeless
Welcome Table - providing assistance to families in East Austin

If you’d like to start a garden to grow produce for your family and friends, the Austin PBS program Central Texas Gardener is a wonderful resource. The webpage has past episodes and segments and offers lots of resources to get you started.