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Austin’s food sector has a $4.1 billion economic impact annually and supports more than 43,000 jobs in the metro area according to a recent report presented to the Austin City Council on March 28th. Based on a similar report conducted by the City in 2012, those numbers almost match the amount of money and jobs that all the creative sectors support combined. The report also notes that despite Austin’s bounty, many of our neighbors struggle with hunger and/or health issues related to nutrition.

The first-of-its-kind economic impact analysis on Austin’s food sector looked at 20 different classes of business establishments from agriculture, food processing/manufacturing, food distribution, and retail food/eating and drinking places, to determine their impact annually on the economy. The report focuses on activities that bring new money to Austin or allows residents to be able to buy more products locally.

Some key findings highlight Austin’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit present in the food scene – from locally-made products, to farms, trailers and restaurants.The report also notes that despite Austin’s bounty, many of our neighbors struggle with hunger and/or health issues related to nutrition. You can read all the findings and recommendations from the Austin City Council Report at: http://austintexas.gov/department/economic-growth.

Weigh in on the important factors when discussing Austin's food sector by speaking up now!

How do you define "local food"? 

38 Responses

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Thomas Thomas about 1 year ago

Local food is food that is produced and sold here in central Texas. Local food is knowing your farmer and knowing the farms that produce the products. Local food is caring about your farmer, caring about how they grow and raise the food you eat and how that impacts your personal well being and the growth of our community. Local food is about changing the carbon footprint of the foods you prepare and consume, making use of the natural resources around us and eating as the seasons change.

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Renee Miller Rangel about 1 year ago

Food Grown or Raised within 50 miles of the city.

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Brent Brent about 1 year ago

Food grown within and near Austin by Austin-owned companies.

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Cassie Kay Tremant about 1 year ago

Food that is grown in or around Austin, prepared by Austin cooks/chefs and sold in Austin stores. It should be more easily accessible.

2 Votes
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Coapublic Information admin 12 months ago

Thanks for your comment, Cassie. How might local food become more easily accessible, and how do you define that?

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Cassie Kay Tremant 12 months ago

I am hoping that Texas grocery stores like HEB or Fiesta would carry more products that are grown/made in Texas. I rarely see local items at my HEB (Riverside&Pleasant Valley) and when I do, they aren't advertised as being local. Places like Whole Foods have a majority of local products and they advertise that it's local, who made it, and what part of Texas it's from. The people who go to WF are people who are aware of the benefits of buying local, so those aren't really the people we need to be marketing to. The people who aren't aware of local foods are the ones shopping everywhere else. I hope to see more big business' carrying local products.

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Daniel Heron 12 months ago

some educated eaters state that local food is something produced and distributed within a 100 mile radius of the city of Austin. I personally think long gone are those food systems. So perhaps "local food" should be any food that is created and sold by a company registered within travis county?

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Coapublic Information admin 12 months ago

Thanks for your comment, Daniel. Do you ever associate things other than farm/ranch grown foods with "local food"?

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Daniel Heron 12 months ago

sure all the time. There are a lot of bread and value added products like sauces and jams that would fit in the local foods category for me

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Daniel Heron 12 months ago

Not exclusively sold in austin. Take Greenling.com for example.

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Tim Thomas 12 months ago

Local food is food that is grown or processed within Texas.

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Jeff Scott 12 months ago

local food has a tiered gradiation definition: the most local is the food grown by my friends & neighbors on the east side on urban farms; then the food produced by farms and ranches within 100-miles or so of Austin.

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Alex Wolfe 12 months ago

Local food is that produced in Austin.

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Mike Mike 12 months ago

Local food is produced within a defined area around Austin, 50-60 miles. It does not necessarily need to be sold exclusively in Austin but it does need to be sold here. A portion of the company growing the food should be owned and registered in Travis county or surrounding counties.

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Don Breedlove 12 months ago

Well I am sure that many different measures define LOCAL, with our urban area I would use as local what can be raised or grown and into local market with in 12-24 hours.and with that the area farmers from Travis,Williamson,Hays,Bastrop and Blanco would agree that Austin is in the area they call local market. From grocery,local farmers markets and resturants and local citizens share and shape local for all of us.

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Jackie Anderson 12 months ago

I classify local food as local business. I love to support my local farmers, but we are a convenience based society and not everyone has the time to cook all those CSA veggies up, let alone pick them up every week/other week. So, I support Wheatsville. Not everything there is the conventional 'local', but since the business itself is local, I can trust the employees to put items on the shelves from companies I can trust as well. Restaurants the same way. I can't afford a restaurant featuring all local sources, but I can afford a locally owned business that gives me a Go Local discount.

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Kevin N Leeds 12 months ago

Local means food that I already have in my refrigerator, or from the nearest grocery store. We use a significant amount of energy transporting ourselves to the food, or bringing the food home, or getting it delivered. It seems plausible, especially for highly populated areas in the city, that most energy-efficient way to solve the problem of the Last Mile for this industry would be a system of door-to-door food trucks that would provide everyone food. It's not efficient unless the same vehicle goes to a large number of spots in the same small area. In food delivery jobs, drivers add three to twenty miles to the odometer just to deliver a few pounds of food. The vehicle weighs a few tons - very inefficient.

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Coapublic Information admin 12 months ago

operating*

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Coapublic Information admin 12 months ago

Thanks for your comment, Kevin! Do you believe that grocery stores/farmers/suppliers should be the ones opporating this delivery service, or is that something the city should think about?

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Garret Nick 12 months ago

food grown in travis county or adjacent counties or produced with those ingredients.

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Jenn G 12 months ago

Food that is grown, picked, packaged and prepared in the greater Austin area.

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Dr T 12 months ago

Perhaps the term 'local' food should be foods grown within a 50 mile distance of the city center and the term 'urban' food should be used for foods grown within the city limit of Austin. To highlight the issue, the current definition of 'local' covers food I grow in my back yard, foods grown as far away as San Antonio, and foods processed in Austin from sources as far away as China. Food processing shouldn't be counted in the definition of local food as the raw materials may not have originated in this area. Most food processing I would consider to be a manufacturing operation which has a much larger carbon footprint than do the foods I grow in my own yard.

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Michael Cavazos 12 months ago

Food grown in Travis county or the five surrounding counties. "Local" also means food grown by locally owned businesses.

1 Vote
 
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Shelly Shelly 12 months ago

Grown, produced, (prepared), and sold locally

1 Vote
 
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Mike Sullivan 12 months ago

I love local food, and the farmers' markets are great sources. I truly enjoy Avocados Bananas Cherries Dates Elderberries Fava Beans Grapes Honeydew I can't come up with an I Jicama Kiwifruit Limes Mango Nectarines Oranges Pineapple Quince Raisins Shallots Tangerines Ugli fruit Very ripe bananas Water chestnuts Xheloberries Yucca root Zha zha beans

OOPS! wrong list, but you get the idea. I like variety. Local if possible.

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Larry Sunderland 12 months ago

Local food is food produced in close proximity to its intended market. Food that is harvested at peak with the intent to distribute immediately. Food that uses local labor and food whose sale returns the money back into the local economy.

1 Vote
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Coapublic Information admin 12 months ago

Thanks for your comment Larry! Could you be more specific about your definition of "close proximity"? Within the County, State, City Limits, or a milage?

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Shawnmon Com 12 months ago

"Local Food" (to me) can reference two different purposes.

1.) Is it "local" in the sense that the food is grown/produced/pollenated within the geographic area that consists of the same climate and shared air, which will play a role in how it compliments your body's health functionality. Local Honey is the best example of that. Most likely this means "within the surrounding Counties of Travis, but again, could mean even closer depending on the change in climate or pollens from Hill Country versus the Elgin direction.

2.) Is it "local" in the sense that all employees and owners throughout the process of raising/growing/producing/shipping/profiting process are local to our Austin economy.

When discussing #2, it's also possible to consider Texas as Local, and consider Austin/Travis County as Hyper-Local.

Maybe Hyper-Local is a good term to start incorporating in the discussion. There's certainly an added benefit to getting your produce from a community garden on the East Side in Austin versus having them shipped in from East Texas.

Both are supportive to our Texas economy, which is important, but the Hyper-Local option also reduces emissions, fuel costs, and other costs & pollutants in the transportation processes.

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Carla Carla 12 months ago

Local food is produced by farmers and rancher within 150 miles of Austin. If it was a smaller distance there would not be enough of it available to make an impact.

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Josh Josh 11 months ago

Ideally, "local" food would be produced in the adjacent counties to Travis County and would be grown, processed and distributed within this geographic range. But that being said, I don't think that creating a stringent definition of "local" food is necessarily the best idea. Foodsheds expand and contract depending on seasonal variation, weather/precipitation patterns, and long-term climactic changes. The definition of an "Austin foodshed" should remain flexible to account for these shifts. Flexibility heightens resiliency. The most effective policy measure would be one that encourages transparency in labeling of local foods.

If consumers have access to such information as (1) where their food is grown, (2) the growing practices used, and (3) the family or company standards of the farmers who grow it, they can then judge the level of health and sustainability according to their own environmental, nutritional, and ethical values.

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Coapublic Information admin 11 months ago

Thanks for your comment, Josh. Do you see this labeling practice being one that grocery stores and markets should be responsible for implementing, or should this be the responsibility of the companies/businesses that wish to sell their food in Austin?

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Arl Arl 11 months ago

Produced, sold, obtained in Central Texas.

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Katie Katie 11 months ago

Local food is grown by farmers near where you live. If you live in Austin, you can get food from inside the city limits, or from a 150-mile radius that is typically brought in to farmers markets, or sold at some local retailers. If you don't have an ocean that close, then the Gulf seafood is your most local fish, but that doesn't make it local. It's simply your best choice. For Austinites, there is so much local food that defines our culture, our tastes, and that food naturally matches our climate. Tomatoes in July? Perfect. Tomatoes in December? Not so much. You can find them, but the beauty of local food is that you eat a food at the height of its season, when it TASTES right. As a local organic farmer who feeds 500 families weekly with home delivery, I hear all the time what a difference local makes- because it tastes like it "just got picked". And it did.

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Angela Lewis 11 months ago

Personally, I feel that there needs to be a level of education that goes along with improving healthier options for low income areas. Perhaps a mobile green grocer that offers simple recipes as well as offers on the spot teaching of techniques on using local and seasonally available (IE cheaper, fresher and more nutritionally packed) items. A butternut squash can be intimidating if you don't know how to prep it. It is something I felt strongly about for many years. I moved here from Las Vegas 8 months ago and am a trained chef. I worked in many different facets of the culinary industry in Las Vegas, from the super high end restaurants to gourmet grilling at WFM. I must say that nothing prepared me for the awesomeness that is the foodie world here in Austin. Innovation coupled with current popular fads, a lust for locally grown or produced items that I had never experienced before. A pride that goes with Texas cuisine that has been raised to a different plane. It is truly a paradise in that respect and a ripe proving ground for bringing healthier foods and options to those on a tighter budget who think that boxed mac and cheese is dinner. Mainly because that's all they can afford. If there were a program aimed at bringing healthier food at a discounted rate to these families, the mac and cheese might be served with spinach next time.

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Coapublic Information admin 11 months ago

Thanks for your comment, Angela!

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Carla Carla 11 months ago

I try to grow it or know where it came from, and shop only at our local farms and farmer's markets. Most vendors are within a 100 mile radius of Austin, but a few are farther out.

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Luther Lawson 11 months ago

Local food is any food grown in the local area and served fresh. PLEASE CONSIDER MOVING THE TRAILER RESTURANTS TO THE "PIKE MARKET" PLANNED FOR THE SALTILLO TRAIN STOP AREA. IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE TO HAVE FOOD FOR SALE TO EAT AND FOOD TO TAKE HOME THAT IS FRESH AND LOCALY GROWN.

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Sara Laird Weber 10 months ago

Food produced within driving distance or approx. 100 miles, however, only foods that are adapted to our climate should be grown within these parameters. Coffee, sugar, salt, may need to be transported to this region and in that case, they should be responsibly sourced via fair trade, sustainable standards.

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