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Houston Food Access Tour

For AHA advocates and partners, January meant a road trip from Austin to Houston to promote healthy food access!

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On January 13, AHA staff Christopher Walker and Christina Holch traveled to Houston to facilitate a “field trip” organized by the City of Austin’s Food Policy Manager, Edwin Marty. With the help of Lance Gilliam, AHA volunteer, an exciting and informative day lay ahead.

Our special guest was City of Austin Council Member Delia Garza who wished to see the great healthy food access work that the City of Houston has funded, including many special projects operating independently across the city. Other special guests included: Licia Green of Waterman Steele Real Estate Advisors, Delia Garza’s Chief of Staff Katherine Nicely, and from Austin Public Health, Dr. Philip Huang, Sarah Stein-Lobovitz, and Stephanie Helfman.

Group gathering in grocery store

We began our day at Pyburns, and met with owner John Vuong and his family, as well as the Regional Manager of the Vuong family stores, Larry Johnson. This was a great launching point for the day, as this store was a collaborative project between the City of Houston and owner John Vuong, to begin addressing Houston’s food access challenge. We were thrilled to also have City of Houston Council Member Dwight Boykins join us for our tour of Pyburns.

Next, Arga V. Bourgeois, Professional Speaker, Raw Food Chef, and owner of Sunshine’s hosted a heart-healthy lunch at Sunshine’s where we were able to have a great cross-sector dialogue.

After lunch we visited Hope Farms, where Gracie Cavnar, Founder of Recipe for Success and AHA Volunteer, gave us an overview of her work in the community, and the launch of Recipe for Success and Hope Farms. The farm aims to be an educational program, that will benefit students and military personnel in their pursuit for educational and professional advancement. Hope Farms will produce amazing, healthy food for the community!

Group gathering at a farm

Our day ended with two additional food retail tours. First we met with the owners of Farmer's Fresh Meat to review the scale of their production. The owners were very informative and hospitable! Farmer’s Fresh Meat is a small store, focused mainly on the sale of a variety of fresh meats. Despite the size they employ 39 individuals, and have a high turnover of their meats. The store was quite busy during our visit. Next, we stopped at a Joe-V’s Smart Shop to get an additional glimpse of the many grocery store formats that operate well in Texas. It was great to see the scale of available food that a store like Joe-V’s can provide at an affordable price.

We were thrilled to participate in a such a fun and educational trip, but even more grateful for the participation from Austin Public Health and Austin City Council Member Delia Garza. They witnessed a variety of healthy food access initiatives in Houston, that can be used to help shape programs to increase access to healthy food in Austin and Del Valle!

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