Beyond food security : developing a Food Stress Index in Austin, Texas




Night, Samantha Leigh

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Food insecurity and food access are ongoing concerns in Austin, Texas, particularly given rapid changes in population and demographics over the past decade. Food insecurity metrics in the United States are reliable but may be insufficient to capture the changing environment within a city on a neighborhood basis. Food stress, similar to housing stress, occurs when a household spends a significant share of its income on food. Households facing food stress are more likely to be at risk of food insecurity. The Food Stress Index (FSI) identifies areas in Austin, Texas where households are most likely to face food stress, based on household demographics and environmental factors. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to reduce a set of candidate variables and calculate a Food Stress Index score at the census tract level for Austin/Travis County. The results are compared to the City of Austin’s Food Environment Analysis, which identifies areas facing multiple barriers to accessing healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food. Food Stress Index scores can be recalculated in the future with updated data to reflect the changing environment in Austin. The Food Stress Index may be used to identify areas of opportunity to address food access, food insecurity, and poverty through policy interventions



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