Banner image for FRESH-AUSTIN

Food Retail: Evaluating Strategies for a Healthy Austin (FRESH-AUSTIN) aims to further evaluation of the City of Austin's Healthy Food Access Initiative, and increase understanding of the complexities within a community food system. The study will use a longitudinal study design to assess the initiative's impact on fruit and vegetable  (F&V) purchasing, consumption, food security, and weight status among East Austin residents. And through the use of agent-based modeling will layer new and existing data sets to simulate the individual and joint impact of the different access strategies on food purchasing behaviors, and to understand the inter-relations and inter-dependencies of the various environmental and individual factors that contribute to and/or detract people from accessing healthy foods.

Additionally, with the novel coronavirus causing a worldwide pandemic, the study aims to learn how SARS-CoV-2 is influencing food system dynamics by collecting data on purchasing, consumption, and lifestyle behaviors due to COVID-19.

  • FRESH Austin’s goal is to understand how inter-related and inter-dependent food access interventions can lead to sustainable solutions that promote health and increase economic opportunities. The study involves a multilevel community-wide evaluation, that will make use of a variety of assessment instruments including self-report tools, audits, accelerometers, and GPS. A second major component of the study will be the development of an agent-based model.

    Longitudinal study

    • Participants: 400 adults in the Austin/Travis County area
    • Project length: 3 years
    • Measurements: yearly survey assessing food purchasing and consumption, and associated behaviors, as well as BMI and food security among confirmed users of new food access points, exposed users to new access points (per residential location), and control (unexposed) participants

    Cross-sectional studies

    • A subsample of cohort participants (n=100) at baseline year to wear a device belt with an accelerometer and GPS device, allowing an objective measure on the spatial patterns of food purchasing behaviors among our population, and to ultimately inform our agent-based model
    • Survey participants of SFC’s The Happy Kitchen nutrition education series (30 people once a year for 3 years)
    • Environmental audits of new food access points during all years
    • Assess food, social and transit neighborhood environment and community design at baseline and final years
    • Validation of the Food Frequency Questionnaire component of cohort survey with repeated 24-hr dietary recalls serving as the criterion measure


Alexandra van den Berg, PhD, MPH

Nalini Ranjit, PhD

Deborah Salvo, PhD

Nika Akhavan, MPH

Martha Diaz

Kathryn Janda, PhD

Aida Nielsen, MPH

Statewide discussions around SNAP & double up food bucks: Focus groups and regional convenings

Texas, with some of the fastest growing population centers in the country, is experiencing increased pressure on affordable cost of living, hitting low-income residents especially hard when it comes to basic needs like food. To address inequity in access to healthy food, Sustainable Food Center (SFC) has been working in partnership with organizations across the state to launch and support Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB), a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentive program, at local farmers’ markets and grocery stores. The overarching goal of this project was to inform recommendations for the DUFB Program enhancement including ways to bolster the program’s reach, delivery and ensure fidelity across multiple geographies.

Photo of Martha Diaz Marin

Martha Diaz Marin

Photo of Alexandra (Sandra) van den Berg

Alexandra (Sandra) van den Berg, MPH, PhD

Principal Investigator, GAVA Evaluation Study; Co-Investigator, Texas SNAP-Ed Evaluation Photo of Aida Nielsen

Aida Nielsen, MPH

Project Director, GAVA Evaluation Study Photo of Nalini Ranjit

Nalini Ranjit, PhD

Principal Investigator, Texas SNAP-Ed Evaluation; Co-Principal Investigator, GAVA Evaluation Study
Banner image for FRESH-AUSTIN

Exploring healthy food access and consumption among low-income central Texas residents during COVID-19: the FRESH Austin Study

In this webinar, the Food Retail: Evaluation Strategies for a Healthy Austin (FRESH Austin) research team presented empirical and simulation-based findings on the impact of COVID-19 on food security, food purchasing, cooking, and consumption habits among central Texas residents during mid-2020.