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Full Circle Food System of the Texas Coastal Bend

Youth programs, community networks and shareable resources create a sustainable food system connecting agriculture, markets, & food service.

Photo of Michelle Kish
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Grow Local South Texas

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Corpus Christi

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Texas Coastal Bend (Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Refugio & San Patricio Counties), approximately 23,170 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Our organization, Grow Local South Texas, has been a grassroots leader in the local food system of Corpus Christi and the Texas Coastal Bend since it's formation in 2013. With a mission to grow a healthy, local community by improving access to, education about and advocacy for affordable, nutrient-dense foods, our organization has many staple programs already in place within this community including a teaching garden, a year-round farmers' market, youth educational programming (in school, after-school, camps, etc), food producers education, community events and more. We partner with various other non-profit organizations, local businesses and schools in the Texas Coastal Bend (and often greater Texas) for programming, education and advocacy regarding agriculture and the local food system. We consistently work with local small and family farmers in our area as well as hobby gardeners and homesteaders. We selected this area for a variety of reasons 1) it is already within our mission to improve the health of our local community 2) we already have small-scale programs in place that can be used as a base to build off of for our 2050 vision 3) our staff members, board members, volunteers and current partners are all passionate about improving our local food system and very engaged in this community 4) the Texas Coastal Bend has a unique climate that lends itself to year-round growing and a rich agricultural history 5) this community has great needs in areas of health, food choices and future agricultural stability.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The Texas Coastal Bend consists of 9 Texas counties, covering an area of approximately 23,170 km^2, with a combined population of 547,967 according to the 2010 US Census. Counties range in population size from Kenedy with a population of just 416 (the fourth least-populous county in the whole of the United States) to Nueces, with a population of 340,223. The Texas Coastal Bend has a warm, sub-tropical climate that lends to year-round farming and agricultural production. Although in recent years, other industries such as chemical and oil-related industries have overshadowed agriculture in the region, it is still an important industry in the area. Current agricultural production is largely mono-commodity-crop production focused on cotton, corn and grain sorghum. Although, the area has a rich history of more diverse food production and small-to-medium family farm production especially during and prior to The Great Depression. In just Nueces county, the 2017 Census of Agriculture noted 646 farms and 474,868 acres in operation (USDA NASS). Population growth of the area tends to follow a boom and bust system closely linked to the oil industry's successes/failures in the region, overall Nueces County has been an area of slow population growth over the past decade. Food choices in the area are largely focused on convenience and highly-processed foods. KRISTV, a local news channel in Corpus Christi (the most populous city in the region) recently noted in a story that Corpus Christi has “more fast-food restaurants per-capita than anywhere else in the nation.” Large areas of the coastal bend, including populous areas of Corpus Christi, are designated as low income, low food access, meaning residents have little-to-no fresh produce options within a reasonable distance from their homes.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

* The Coastal Bend is an area suffering from high levels of diet and nutrition related diseases in both adults and youth. In the 2016 Coastal Bend Health Needs Assessment undertaken by Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, the top 4 illnesses that healthcare providers reported seeing in their patients most frequently were hypertension, overweight/obesity, heart conditions, and diabetes. According to this assessment, “the 2016 County Health Rankings demonstrate that almost a third of RFP4 residents are obese” and “the RPH4 counties rank low compared to the U.S. and Texas for access to exercise opportunities… physical inactivity…, and food environment index (index of factors that contribute to a healthy food environment (0-10)) (Multiple, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi).” The counties referenced (RFP4/RPH4) include many of the counties in the targeted area of this vision plan. * Despite being an area with a climate that is ideal for year-round diverse food production, most of the areas farms are mono-crop commodity farms that lend little to healthy food choices or fresh food availability in the local community. The Texas Coastal Bend is also following the nation-wide trend of aging farmers/agricultural professionals with less and less young professionals entering agriculture. * The school systems in our area have little-to-no emphasis on sustainable agriculture practices, healthy eating, healthy life-choices, food preparation education or food systems education. Many children of the area are only exposed to highly processed and convenience foods both at home and in the current school system.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision will provide agriculture and food systems education through in-school and after-school programming involving sustainable small-scale agriculture, food preparation, nutrition and business skills with a focus on school-to-market programming that introduces youth into food systems related professions. It will allow these youth's future career options through scholarship and mentoring programs as well as partnerships and opportunities for obtaining or renting land, work experience on farms, in food distribution or in food service/the culinary industry. For the community as a whole, shareable resources through community education, community food production areas (teaching gardens) and systems such as rent-able (or sponsored) use of commercial kitchen space will allow community members education about and access into the local food system.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Youth having had an increased exposure to and knowledge about a healthy local food system will be more inclined to enter into food systems professions (sustainable agriculture, distribution and culinary fields) sustaining an important economic area of our community. Having been through this system and achieving success in their own lives, they will have the opportunity to mentor future generations to achieve the same, providing a sustainable, full-circle system. Both the community as a whole and the community's youth, having received a higher profile of education on the topic will have the ability to make healthier life-choices, leading to a decrease in the current rates of diet related illness in the area. Shared community resources and a more robust local food system will improve food access and decrease the number of low food access areas in the region.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

A ground up, grassroots network of education, food access, shared community resources and mentoring programs will provide a sustainable food system for the Texas Coastal Bend.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Constanza Castano

Hi, Michelle Kish ! Welcome to the Food System Vision Prize Community!

Thank you for sharing your envisioned future for the Texas Coastal Bend. I encourage you to find like-minded Visionaries throughout this platform to exchange insights, feedback, and possible collaborations.

Please make sure you have reviewed your final submission through the Pocket Guide to support you through the final hours of wrapping up your submission. This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision. You can update your submission until 5:00 PM EST.

Here is the link to the pocket guide:

All the very best for the Prize!

Warm regards,