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Food Security

vision
status = worse

Our basic needs are met.

We live in a community where the basic needs of all are met.

17% of Travis County residents live in food insecure households

Indicator: Percent of individuals in Travis County who live in food insecure households

Goal: Decrease the percent of individuals in Travis County who live in food insecure households

Target: 15% by 2020

Key Trends: Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, food insecurity in Travis County has worsened, rather than improved. Data by race and ethnicity are not available locally, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that, at the national level, food insecurity rates for Blacks (26%) and Hispanics (22%) are more than double those for Whites (10.5%). People who are food insecure may experience poorer health outcomes. Food insecurity may be associated with increased risk of obesity as well as other chronic diseases. Food insecurity can be an even more critical issue for children. According to Feeding America, food insecurity may impact a child’s physical and mental health, as well as academic success. Feeding America estimates that 24% of Travis County children are food insecure.

what the data tell us

In 2014, 17% of individuals in Travis County lived in food insecure households. Though the rate has improved slightly, it is still higher than it was five years ago. In 2014, approximately 17% of Texans and 15% of Americans experienced food insecurity.

Definition: Individuals who live in households that face limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

Data Source: Feeding America

Data Considerations: Feeding America derives county-level food insecurity rates using a statistical model. First, researchers determine the relationship between a series of indicators and state-level rates of food insecurity, as measured by the United States Department of Agriculture through the Current Population Survey. Feeding America then uses data on these indicators from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate county-level rates of food insecurity. Indicators used to estimate food insecurity include unemployment, poverty, median income, home ownership, and demographic characteristics. There may be variables that affect food security rates that were not included in the calculation. More information on Feeding America’s methodology is available here.

the story behind the indicator

In 2014, about 17% of Travis County residents faced food insecurity, or limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, according to Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Feeding America uses state data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and local data from the U.S. Census Bureau to estimate county-level food insecurity. Rates of food insecurity have increased in Travis County over the past five years, while they have declined in Texas and the U.S. as a whole.

Most food insecure residents in Travis County (63%) are estimated to be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a program that increases the food purchasing power of low-income households. However, the Texas Hunger Initiative reports that about 43% of those income-eligible for benefits in Travis County don’t receive them. If the additional 43% of eligible residents had received benefits, the county could have seen an additional $303,054,609 (estimated) in economic activity. According to the national 2014 Hunger in America report, about half of households responding to a survey reported that they did not think they were eligible for benefits. Several studies, cited by the Food Research and Action Center, have found that SNAP utilization reduces food insecurity for children and adults.

Feeding America estimates that 61,520 children (24% of children in Travis County) are food insecure. Many food insecure children are served through the free and reduced school breakfast and lunch programs during the school year. The 83rd Texas Legislature passed a bill requiring schools in which 80% or more of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch to offer free breakfast to all students. During the 2013-2014 school year, a number of area schools began offering universal free breakfast as a result of this change. Numerous programs in our community also provide nutritious meals to students during out-of-school time activities, as well as other individuals who may have difficulty accessing healthy food, such as seniors and people with disabilities. Information on many of these programs can be found on the City of Austin’s Food Systems Portal webpage related to 'Eating Food'.

a closer look

Click on one of the titles below for more information.

» percent of individuals who live in food insure households- Austin Metro Area Counties

In recent years, counties in the Austin area have exhibited lower rates of food insecurity than the state of Texas as a whole. However, Travis County exhibited a higher rate of food insecurity than the nation as a whole. Williamson County has seen an increase in the percent of individuals living in food insecure households since 2011, while Caldwell and Hays Counties continue to experience declines. Bastrop County also shows an overall decline, despite an increase in 2013.

Definition: Individuals who live in households that face limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

Data Source: Feeding America

Data Considerations: Feeding America derives county-level food insecurity rates using a statistical model. First, researchers determine the relationship between a series of indicators and state-level rates of food insecurity, as measured by the United States Department of Agriculture through the Current Population Survey. Feeding America then uses data on these indicators from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate county-level rates of food insecurity. Indicators used to estimate food insecurity include unemployment, poverty, median income, home ownership, and demographic characteristics. There may be variables that affect food security rates that were not included in the calculation. More information on Feeding America’s methodology is available here.

» Percent of Individuals Who live in food insecure households - texas urban counties

Travis County has a lower rate of individuals who are food insecure than most of Texas’ largest urban counties. Only Bexar County (San Antonio) and El Paso County have substantially lower rates of food insecurity.

Definition: Individuals who live in households that face limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

Data Source: Feeding America

Data Considerations: Feeding America derives county-level food insecurity rates using a statistical model. First, researchers determine the relationship between a series of indicators and state-level rates of food insecurity, as measured by the United States Department of Agriculture through the Current Population Survey. Feeding America then uses data on these indicators from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate county-level rates of food insecurity. Indicators used to estimate food insecurity include unemployment, poverty, median income, home ownership, and demographic characteristics. There may be variables that affect food security rates that were not included in the calculation. More information on Feeding America’s methodology is available here.

» Percent of Children Who live in food insecure households

Children are more likely than adults to experience food insecurity. 24% of all children and youth in Travis County are food insecure. This means that in 2014, 61,520 Travis County children and youth were food insecure. The number of children experiencing food insecurity in Travis County is higher than the number of food insecure children in surrounding counties. All local counties, as well as Texas and the United States as a whole, experienced rates of child food insecurity between 20% and 30%.

Definition: Children and youth under the age of 18 who live in households that face limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

Data Source: Feeding America

Data Considerations: Feeding America derives county-level food insecurity rates using a statistical model. First, researchers determine the relationship between a series of indicators and state-level rates of food insecurity, as measured by the United States Department of Agriculture through the Current Population Survey. Feeding America then uses data on these indicators from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate county-level rates of food insecurity. Indicators used to estimate food insecurity include unemployment, poverty, median income, home ownership, and demographic characteristics. There may be variables that affect food security rates that were not included in the calculation. More information on Feeding America’s methodology is available here.

» travis county SNAP Participants

The number of Travis County residents participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) increased rapidly from 2007 to 2010, before leveling off from 2010 to 2011. In 2011, am estimated 138,243 residents participated in the program. More recent data are available at the state and national levels. In early 2015, the US Department of Agriculture reported that average monthly SNAP participation declined in Fiscal Year 2014, for the first time since 2007. In Texas, the USDA reported a similar decline from FY2013 to FY 2014. During FY2014, an average of 3.9 million people in Texas and 46.5 million people nationally participated in SNAP each month.

Definition: The estimated number of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Data Source:  USDA, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Data System.

Data Considerations: County level data are gathered through the Food Nutrition Services, USDA and are provide by the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates section of the U.S. Census Bureau. Participant counts are usually for the month of July.

» map of callers to 211 with food-related needs, per 1,000 residents, by zip code, 2014

The 2-1-1 Navigation Center improves Central Texans’ lives by creating one central access point for an array of community resources in our 10-county region. In 2014, the following zip codes had the 10 highest volume of calls to 2-1-1 for information about food-related assistance in Travis County: 78721, 78701, 78702, 78724, 78742, 78752, 78723, 78753, 78741, 78758.

map showing the Calls to 211 navigation center for food-related needs

Definition: Number of callers to 211 with food-related needs per 1,000 residents; Callers were considered to have a food-related need if the call was coded into one of the following 211 taxonomy categories: Christmas baskets, congregate meals/nutrition sites, food banks/ food distribution warehouses, food pantries, food stamps/SNAP, food stamps/SNAP appeals/complaints, food stamps/SNAP applications, food vouchers, formula/baby food, home delivered meals, occasional emergency food assistance, soup kitchens, summer food service programs, Thanksgiving baskets, Thanksgiving meals

Data Source:   United Way for Greater Austin 2-1-1 Navigation Center and American Community Survey, 5Year Estimates.

Data Considerations: This map represents callers between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014. The number of callers in 2014 was compared to 2009-2013 population estimates, as more recent American Community Survey data were unavailable at the time of publication. Some zip codes shown on the map overlap multiple counties. Only the portion of the zip code located within Travis County is colored, although callers may reside in any county located within the zip code. Zip codes are self-reported and may not represent their actual zip code location. The map excludes 567 callers whose zip code could not be mapped; most of these callers reported a zip code associated with a post office box.

some local efforts to improve this indicator

vulnerable populations