Description and Definitions

This map tool, in its current form, is to visualize the Houston/Harris County food-related resources landscape only. The goal is to provide a general sense of where selected food-related resources are in relation to food desert areas in the Houston region. It is most useful when viewed with the USDA food desert layer turned on, and a single other layer of your choice. Turning on too many layers makes the map less visually appealing.

Additionally, the tool is not intended to be used for making any statistical inferences about food-related resources in the region, such as clusters, hot spots, cold spots, associations between food desert areas and access points. Additional programming and analysis would be required to make these types of inferences.

The data that was used to create the layers represented in the map tool came from a variety of sources and required significant processing. Data sources included:

  • Active surveillance of organizations who are reportedly providing services at the zip code level in this space conducted by UTHealth School of Public Health and CHMI. This was followed up with visiting individual organizations’ websites and obtaining further information (as available) regarding locations and services provided. This survey also provided information on type of service provided.
  • United Way website – passive surveillance on location and type of service.
  • 2017 data on grocery store retailers locations as provided generously by HEB and Waterman Steele
  • Food pantries.org for locations of food pantries
  • Community gardens locations
  • Healthy Corner store locations (CAN DO Houston)
  • Location of healthcare organizations
  • Census level food desert data from the USDA (2010).
  • Income level distribution

Two types of visualization data were created. The first provides data on location of the various services, retail at the address level. Second, a density score for number of services within a zip code was computed. The definitions used to define the various types of services are included below.

Multi-component programs (e.g. Brighter Bites, Recipe for Success) consisting of nutrition education and food distribution are included under multiple categories listed below.

1. Food Assistance: government funded or other aided programs that provides/ offers support services to low-income individuals via a monthly stipend/vouchers to purchase food products. This does not include food distribution programs. On the map, organizations offering the following services are included:

  • Food Stamps/SNAP
  • Food SNAP for adults
  • Food Vouchers
  • Food vouchers for HIV
  • WIC
  • EBT Card Services
  • Immigrant Benefits Assistance for Refugees/Entrants/Asylees
  • Donations Pickup Volunteer Opportunities

2. Food Availability include the programs that:

Food distribution programs that ensure the availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production or imports, including food aid. On the map, organizations included in this category are:

  • Houston Food Bank
  • Food Pantry
  • Food Cooperatives
  • Food lines
  • Food outlets
  • Congregate Meals Nutrition Sites
  • Congregate Meals Nutrition Sites for older adults
  • Congregate Meals Nutrition Sites for homeless people
  • Home delivered Meals
  • Home delivered Meals for Older Adults
  • Summer Food Service Programs
  • Child and Adult Care Food Programs
  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program
  • Formula/Baby Food

Food programs that help supplement the diets of low-income Americans who are at nutritional risk, (e.g. elderly people, homeless), by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance. On the map, organizations included in this category are:

  • Soup Kitchens
  • Post Disaster Food Services
  • Food Clearinghouses for persons with diseases
  • Other Food clearinghouses
  • Christmas Baskets
  • Sack Lunches/Dinners
  • Sack Lunches/Dinners for Homeless Mentally III
  • Sack Lunches/Dinners for Homeless Veterans
  • Soup Kitchens
  • Thanksgiving Baskets

3. Nutrition Education: Programs that focus on the delivery of improving the nutrition knowledge and awareness via lessons/hands-on-training to program participants on diet quality, food resource management, cooking techniques. These programs may be multi-component and include a food distribution component as part of the program (identified as such under food availability).

Organizations included in this category offer the following services:

  • Cooking Classes
  • Educational Support Services
  • Nutrition Education
  • Nutrition Education for Intellectual Disabilities
  • Nutrition Education for Older Adults

 4. Food Retailers: Retail food is all food, other than restaurant food, that is purchased by consumers and consumed off-premise.

On the map, retail stores in this category include:

  • Kroger
  • Aldi
  • Central Market
  • HEB
  • Randall
  • Sprouts
  • Trader Joes
  • Walmart
  • Wholefoods
  • Target
  • Mi Tienda
  • Harvest natural market
  • Fiesta
  • Foodrama
  • 99 Ranch market


5. Community Garden & Farmer’s Market

6. Low to Moderate Income Population by Block Group: Percentage of families within block group who are low to moderate income, as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These data are based on the 2000 Census, updated through fiscal year 2013.

7. Houston Super Neighborhoods

  • A super neighborhood is a geographically designated area where residents, civic organizations, institutions and businesses work together to identify, plan, and set priorities to address the needs and concerns of their community.
  • The boundaries of each super neighborhood rely on major physical features (bayous, freeways, etc.) to group together contiguous communities that share common physical characteristics, identity or infrastructure.
  • The super neighborhood elects a council comprised of area residents and stakeholders that serves as a forum to discuss issues and identify and implement priority projects for the area.


8. ‘Can Do Houston’ Corner Stores: ‘CAN DO Houston’ is an organization focused on preventing and reducing childhood obesity through environment, policy, and systems change. Sunnyside and Pasadena are two Houston communities that CAN DO Houston supports. These communities host the ‘Healthy Corner Store Initiative’, which provides affordable produce to convenience stores, to include healthier options for community members. Store owners are trained and given the knowledge and skills to be able to promote and market healthier options. The convenience store is converted into a place where the healthy choice becomes the easy choice.

9. Number and Type of Food Services Per Zip Code: This layer represents a summary of number and type of organizations providing food-related services at zip code level as derived from the Clinton Foundation survey and the United Way website. These data were collected at a zip code level of geography, and therefore, do not exactly match the data collected at a point level (i.e. address level) as reflected above in 1-5 above. Survey data is limited by respondents and does not represent every possible organization in the region that may be providing food-related services. Similarly, the United Way system is a passive surveillance tool that only includes organizations choosing to register and maintain data on their site. The point-level layers in the map tool (e.g., food pantries) represent actively collected location information by site and contains additional data which the zip code level tally does not. Therefore, these numbers may not match.

Other considerations - Dynamic database and will need constant updating. The layers represented in the map tool are subject to the same limitations (e.g., quality) as the native data source. The underlying data will need to improve in future iterations of the application. Quality of the food-related services is not reflected since that data is not available.

  • Strengths: Provides density and number of food-related services in the greater Houston area. Can assess access to food retail combined with food-related services offered by non-profit organizations. Can visually assess food-related services in relation to food deserts and identify saturation and gaps.