Police, volunteers distribute food in high crime area

About a month ago, after receiving a U.S. Department of Justice grant, the Austin Police Department announced plans for the “Riverside Togetherness Project,” an effort to reduce crime.

They say four percent of the city's crime happens within a small two-mile radius between East Riverside and Oltorf. “Traditional law enforcement initiatives might have focused on certain behaviors and outcomes. Instead of doing the same thing expecting different results, we are grateful we got this grant in Austin so we could try to be on the forefront of really having those conversations started, quality conversations about peoples' experiences,” said Adrienne O’Keefe, site coordinator, Riverside Togetherness Project.

Sometimes correcting the big problem means addressing something as simple as food supply.

Friday, ACC, APD and the Central Texas Food Bank teamed up to distribute more than 13,000 pounds of free food to those in need. “This is certainly a high need area which is why we chose to come to this specific location along with the food insecurity rates in college students,” said Kara Hedlund, distribution supervisor with the Central Texas Food Bank.

Riverside is a bustling community experiencing rapid growth, but with rising property taxes and rent, many are left fending for themselves. “Access to healthy food is expensive. With this program we also give people nutrition education. For example, we have beets on the line today and not everybody is sure what to do with beats. We have recipes and a great volunteer who is letting people know how to cook it,” said Hedlund.

The police department said attending food distribution events like these, gives them a head start on their goals to eliminate crime “I think food insecurity is a larger societal issue that can definitely feed into areas where crime is happening. That's just one of the layers of what's happening out in this area. It's important for people to have a relationship with them that's outside of enforcement activities and those moments where it's high stress and people are under duress,” said O’Keefe.

The goal may be to end the high property and violent crime that occurs in the Riverside area....and all it might take to start that process is a little one on one communication between officers, and residents and acts of kindness.

The food bank does distributions year round.

For more information, visit centraltexasfoodbank.org

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