HITCHCOCK

When Pam Butler wants to buy groceries, she has to walk about a mile to Dollar General.

There’s no produce or meat, but the canned goods, milk and eggs the store carries will get her by until one of her children can take her to Walmart in La Marque or Kroger in another nearby city. For people like Butler, 58, who are without a vehicle and live in Hitchcock, there’s really no other option, she said.

“Every day, you see people from my neighborhood walking down the street to the dollar store, or to one of the convenience stores to buy little items,” she said. “Not having transportation — it ain’t easy. We really need a grocery store.”

Hitchcock’s only grocery store, Baywood Foods, closed in September 2014 and a new one never opened to replace it, creating a so-called food desert, an area where substantial numbers of low-income residents have little access to grocery stores or other retail outlets for healthy, affordable food.

But if a new plan — the winner of an American Planning Association conference held in Galveston in October — that addresses how the city can tackle its food desert problem takes off, then Hitchcock could become a different place.

The proposal, titled “Dealing with Food Insecurity and Preserving City Beautification,” looks at several different ways Hitchcock, a city with fewer than 8,000 people, could make it easier for residents like Butler to obtain groceries.

Community gardens, a local farmer’s market, a central place for people to receive fresh food donations from local charities and, of course, a new grocery store, would solve the food insecurity problems the city faces.

“All people have in Hitchcock is a Jack in the Box and a Subway, pretty much,” said Andret Rayford, the Texas Southern University urban planning student who co-authored the proposal with Stephania Alvarez and Jason Moreno. “Other than that, there are a couple little convenience stores that have sodas and chips and condiments. But besides not having much nutrition value, we found that that can be too expensive for an elderly person on fixed income or a young person without a job.”

The students’ proposal is the product of a $30,000 partnership Hitchcock’s Economic Development Corp. made earlier this year with Texas Target Communities, a Texas A&M University service program through the college of architecture that works along local governments to create sustainable communities.

Participating universities worked with Hitchcock city officials and stakeholders to develop a strategic plan for hurricane resilience, recovery, emergency management and zoning, according to the group’s website, as well as on community beautification, workforce development, drainage, strategic infrastructure, community outreach and communications and planning and zoning.

Whether or not the Texas Southern University plan catches on is up to how Hitchcock officials choose to use it, Rayford said. While some aspects of the proposal might take longer to put in place — a beer garden where people in the community can meet up and relax, for example — there’s nothing standing in the way of turning part of Stringfellow Orchards, a private event space on state Highway 6, into a community garden where people can pick up vegetables and other food, Rayford said.

“This kind of thinking is what Hitchcock needs,” said Sam Collins III, the Hitchcock resident who owns Stringfellow Orchards and weighed in as a source on the Texas Southern University students’ plan. “People here need a grocery store and other food options to survive and be healthy.”

Hitchcock officials weren’t available for comment about whether or not they were planning to turn the proposal into a reality in the city, but judging by their involvement in the Texas Southern University proposal, Rayford said she could see some elements of what the students came up with getting put in place quickly.

“The city was very receptive to what we came up with,” she said. “It’s pretty obvious that people who live in Hitchcock need a way to have healthy food.”

Aaron West: 409-683-5246; aaron.west@galvnews.com

Reporter

(12) comments

Samuel Collins III

The American Planning Association Texas Chapter held their annual conference in Galveston Oct. 17-19th. The Legacy Project was part of their conference where four universities created proposals for the city of Hitchcock as a competition. TSU's proposal was selected as the winner. Students from Texas A&M University, UT Arlington and UT San Antonio also presented proposals. TSU's plan is not the final plan that Texas A&M University will present to the community next year as part of the Texas Target Communities program. The students from all four schools presented some ideas that were new and out of the box, but at this point they just show the potential of what could be and these are not final proposals that city officials would have been able to comment on because it the four proposals were not presented to the city. Some of the ideas may make it into the final TTC program proposal and they may not. Here is a link to see the other student proposals https://www.txplanning.org/apatx18-legacy-project/. If you want more information about the TTC program visit https://ttc.arch.tamu.edu/about/index.html. Hitchcock has great potential and this is just one step in the process, but not the final step. There may have been some confusion around the fact TSU won the Legacy Project contest and that meant their proposal was the final plan for Hitchcock, but it is not. Other plans also included more development on FM 2004.

Rusty Schroeder

This is pure Hitchcock, convenience stores are to pricey for the elderly and young plus their snacks held little to no nutritional value. So lets build a beer garden on hwy. 6 and open up a food truck lot at the old Bayway Foods. This article is a prime example of why Hitchcock is in the mess that it is in. The community garden and food shelter are a step in the right direction, however that would take some sort of managerial process to make happen. But for good ness sake, your town wants a grocery store, a place they can go and stock their pantry and fridge with food. How hard is that to understand ? I wonder what the Mayor thinks about these plans ?

Dalton Logan

Why did Bayway foods close?

Peggy Schultz

So glad the paper posted the story of the Hitchcock residents plea for help in getting some needed transportation in their area... Hopefully with a few calls that can be taken care of since HIS Ministries say they have that area; so pray they can take care iof the situation. No Sr should have to walk a mile for anything!! Please keep us abreast & let us know if help is needed. I left my info. Godspeed... P Schultz

Rusty Schroeder

That's what you got out of this article, transportation issues? Not saying that isn't a factor for some, but not having a place in your own town to buy groceries is what the article is about. There is Mainland Transit, I see 3 or 4 of those vans at the LM Wal Mart daily at various times. I am sure there is a pickup point in Hitchcock.

Samuel Collins III

Rusty we all want a grocery store. If it was easy it would have already been done. Several companies have been contacted and at some point I am sure we will get one. The TSU plan is just one of several proposals and it is not a final plan for the city. The ideas presented are not at the exclusion of a grocery store. There are short term plans and long term plans. The new grocery could go in the old location or there may be a brand new location or a brand new building in the same location. The current strip center needs a lot of repairs, but it will take cooperation of the current owners for any of these plans to work. It would be great if they sold the entire strip center to a new owner that could come in and build an entire new building. None of the four plans by the four universities or the final TTC plan by TAMU is guaranteed to be accepted as a vision for the city. Elected officials may choose not to use any of the ideas. You are welcome to come share your possible solutions at one of the community meeting hosted by TAMU. The next one will be in February 2019.

Paul Hyatt

It is guaranteed to be accepted as a vision? Really by who other than you and the EDC who paid for this study with our tax money!

Dalton Logan

Are the reasons for the closure of Bayway foods been rectified to the point that another grocer would be interested in opening a store? I would think this would have been determined and examined first.

M. FARRIS

Seems no one wants to speak about that...

Martin Connor

Sam- We desperately need a grocery store. I have checked both dollar stores the last few months and every time i go, all the tin foil is gone. Too many residents in town making hats i suppose. LOL

Carlos Ponce

With a Wal-Mart 4.1 miles (from Hitchcock High school) and an HEB 5.4 miles away, Baywood had a low profit margin and had difficulty competing.

Martin Connor

While you are partially correct, Baywood had a few difficulties remaining open. First they had some internal issues that reared it's head. Then they had a hard time dealing with Grocery Supply(Owner of building), they constantly went up on their rent and failed to make repairs in a timely manner costing the store loss of product. However i never went to Wal-Mart or any other store for my groceries. Their meat dept. had the best sales of any local grocery store. Many other products were slightly higher than your other chains, but convenience always won out with the people i talked to. Plus the Wood family was a staple in the community, donating to all the organizations and a big part of the Chamber. I remember when Hurricane Rita threatened the Coast. Derek Wood left the key to the store with the local VFD and said get what you guys need to feed yourselves before and after the storm comes in. Anticipating the loss of electricity and potential devastation would come. Even though it didn't happen, he was just happy to help the community in a time of need. And lets not forget the students that you taught that had their first job as a sacker at Baywood. It was a great store, you could not go in for just one item without running into friends and family and spending an hour there. However in the course of business, when the profits are not sustainable, the only option was to close the store. It was more than just a normal grocery store, it was a big part of the community and sorely missed.

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