10 Things I Learned from the City’s State of the Food System Report

Last month, the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability released the State of the Food System Report, a well-designed e-booklet full of lots of factoids about the city’s food economy and programs.

Data isn’t always fun to dig through, but the city should get props for packaging a whole lot of information in 24 little pages.

Ada Broussard, a manager at Johnson's Backyard Garden, gives fresh vegetables and information about the community supported agriculture farm in East Austin at the Earth Day Fair at St. Edward's University on April 22, 2015. Photo by Jay Janner for the Austin American-Statesman.

Ada Broussard, a manager at Johnson’s Backyard Garden, gives fresh vegetables and information about the community supported agriculture farm in East Austin at the Earth Day Fair at St. Edward’s University on April 22, 2015. Photo by Jay Janner for the Austin American-Statesman.

Here are 10 things I didn’t know until I read it:

  • 73 percent of all AISD schools have a teaching garden, while only a third maintain 4H programs.
  • Less than 1 percent of the food consumed in Travis County is produced locally, but Austin has 23 urban farms, more than any city of its size in the country. Agua Dulce, an aquaponics farm in Southeast Austin, was the first to officially receive a certification of compliance with the (once controversial, you’ll remember) Urban Farm Ordinance.
  • In 1974, nearly a third of milk consumed here was produced nearby. Now, there is no milk production in Travis County, even though it has about 1,130 farms.
  • Of the 52 community gardens in Austin, there are zero available plots.
  • The city has more than 24,000 chickens inside its city limits, housed in both urban farms and some 3,100 Austin households with backyard birds.
  • Of the $4.1 billion total economic impact of food (which is the same as our creative sector), nearly half of it ($1.98 billion) comes from eating and drinking out. We spend $449 million at grocery stores. (The report also says that 40 percent of the total economic impact from the food sector is created through tourism, but I can’t find a way to make those number make sense in my head. If tourists aren’t likely to spend much money at farmers markets and grocery stores, most of their money has to go toward eating out, but that would mean they spend nearly all of the $1.98 billion of the eating and drinking dollars without Austinites contributing much. I don’t know about you, but the Austinites I know like to drop dollars at restaurants and bars. I’ve put in a question to the city on this one.)
  • There are 325 food retailers, with a total of 85 that are considered full service stores with food.
  • There are 1,000 food trailers and 6,000 restaurants.
  • Even though a quarter of children in Austin are considered food insecure, we waste more than $208 million of food yearly.
  • 14,322 households are participating in the Curbside Organics Collection Pilot, which started in 2012.

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