Civics Lab creates new ordinance, promotes food accessibility


Morgan Taylor / Hilltopviews

Civics Lab’s main goal is to work alongside Captial Metro in an attempt to add full-service grocery stores that follow transit lines.

The Civics Lab at St. Edward’s University has been hard at work on a new resolution promoting food accessibility in Austin. 

Their main objective is to work with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority by placing the locations of full-service grocery stores on transit maps and pamphlets. Making this information more readily accessible will help minimize food insecurity in the areas where public transport is available. In particular, the Civics Lab plans to help those in East Austin.

“I-35 is a dividing boundary between East and West Austin,” Jay Motheral, member of government relations, said. “People on the east side of town don’t have access to healthy foods, and this affects everything down to life expectancy.”

The new ordinance would give those on the East side a greater understanding of where they are in relation to full-service grocery stores, which in turn will allow them to make more informed decisions about where to get their food. The Civics Lab believes that this knowledge will help lower the disparities seen between the two sides of the city.

In order to ensure their plan is a success, the Civics Lab has been in contact with several governmental entities, including Capital Metro and the Austin City Council. Council members Vanessa Fuentes, Sabino Renteria, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool and Kathie Tovo have all expressed interest in the new ordinance.

“We have to include as many people as we possibly can in order to get the word out,” Motheral said. “There’s also some talk of getting AISD to partner up with a food bank to do a kind of competition.”

The competition would be a way for students to express themselves artistically while continuing to get the word out about the ordinance. The winner would have their art project shown on LCD screens inside of Capital Metro transportation. 

“We’re focusing mainly on elementary schools and middle schools, but we’re also trying to get high schools involved in this,” Cameron Crowder, member of the media section, said. “Hopefully we can get it done in the next few weeks.”

Support for the ordinance has been overwhelmingly positive. As a result, the Civics Lab has been able to get in touch with multiple private organizations that want to help spread the word.

“A specific group is focusing on trying to get us involved with other organizations like Central Texas Food Bank, American Heart Association, Food to Share, the Cook’s Nook and about 30 to 40 other groups,” said Crowder. “We’re in communication with them so we can all focus on this together.”

With this much support behind them, the Civics Lab is confident they’ll be able to make meaningful strides towards implementing the new ordinance in a timely manner.

“We think we’re well on our way to getting some of this realized within this semester,” Motheral said.