The disproportionate struggles areas of Texas faced and continue to face as a result of winter storm Uri prove Texas’ repair work should continue after warmer weather comes. The systemic issues of food deserts and lack of supplies and support for residents in the midst of a historic storm turned deadly for at least 35 people. This provides a present and pressing opportunity to address these issues, instead of letting the memory of how poorly the state handled the storm and did not support its citizens melt away with the snow and ice.
1 in 7 Texans had suffered from food insecurity prior to this storm. And this only exacerbated the issue, as power outages and unstable water and heat supply left families with limited options. Through seeking fewer regulations, Texas is isolated from reliable power grids—leaving millions of people ill-equipped to wait out the storm.
If people in highly developed and well-kept neighborhoods lost water pressure and power, feeling the effects of the storm, how did those in less steady areas fare? Does it take the comfortable to feel uncomfortable to show that others have been suffering all along?
The underlying and seemingly cyclical issues of social injustice, racial injustice, and food insecurity had been setting communities back even before the winter storm. But now, they’re uniquely affected. Texans are paying out of pocket for pipe repairs after they burst, and it has become even harder for people to travel the already-long distances to buy food.
Regardless of the history behind the power supplies of Texas, there were a number of preventable aspects that now highlight the dire need for a deep reevaluation of things the Texas government failed at. The storm could have been emphasized more strongly to warn Texans. Roads could have been prepared better, or at least cleaned off throughout all areas and not just the higher-class neighborhoods. There could have been a better infrastructure prepared for when families would inescapably need shelter, food, and water.
While the past is regrettably unchangeable now, I question if the leaders of Texas will really learn from this colossal error. Will there be affordable food resources for the families who physically couldn’t get any? Will the state’s infrastructure support efforts to permanently improve the disparities between communities instead of giving a quick fix for the current crises?
There are a few immediate goals that the Texas government can work towards. Putting resources for fresh, accessible food within reach is the first step to take. For those who don’t have cars, getting reliable food for their families is not just challenging, but time-consuming. Community gardens are a start, but something better would be government-funded co-ops or programs which work with restaurants and other food suppliers in the area to at least not let food go to waste. At best, infrastructures can be set up through refrigerated trucks or portable coolers to be refilled with necessities.
What comes next is finding a way to standardize power and gas systems so that poorer areas without heat and electricity don’t look over the skyline to buildings that “glow” throughout the inequitable blackouts. Despite the difference in opinion of accepting federal regulation of power in Texas, efforts can still be made to at least ensure all areas receive power—or the restoration of power—in an unprejudiced way.
Though it is not easy work, these improvements, of which there must be many more besides what I have outlined, are crucial in allowing the Texan government to claim it represents all constituents of the state. While not asking for a complete change in the way the state functions, the improvements are long overdue and the people living in those food deserts have had their water literally and figuratively withheld for too long.