Addressing the Grocery Gap: H-E-B Struggle for Food Access

Oct 28, 2023 | Local

Del Valle, Texas, a rapidly expanding community, is facing a dilemma that resonates across America – it’s a “food desert.” With a population of over 70,000 people, this growing area finds itself starved for easy access to a standard grocery store, leaving residents reliant on dollar stores, convenience shops, and small supermarkets like JD’s Supermarkets.

Tanya Robledo, a long-time Del Valle resident, highlights the issue: “There’s a lack of grocery stores.” Even after years in the city, she must undertake a significant journey to reach the nearest H-E-B, situated either on East Riverside Drive in Austin or Hasler Boulevard in Bastrop, both a 20- to 30-minute drive from Del Valle without traffic.

The problem is not unique to Robledo; Ismael Elias, another resident, underscores the growing population and the pressing need for a store like H-E-B. He emphasizes that the area’s expansion will only continue, making it all the more crucial to address this concern promptly.

Austin City Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes, representing District 2, recognizes the urgency of the situation. In a letter to H-E-B’s CEO, she presses the supermarket giant to prioritize a new store in Del Valle. While H-E-B acquired land along Highway 71 and FM 973 in 2016, they have yet to break ground on a store in this area.

Fuentes’s advocacy centers on ensuring adequate infrastructure is in place for the current residents and future growth. She states, “There’s just not enough options for an area of that size.”

KVUE reached out to H-E-B regarding their plans for the purchased land. They responded, explaining that such investments are often made well in advance of current real estate needs. Development in Southeast Austin and Del Valle prompted H-E-B’s investment in land holdings for a future store. In the meantime, they’ve expanded their H-E-B Home Delivery service and made substantial investments in food access partnerships to address immediate needs.

Fuentes acknowledges that residents have expressed concerns about H-E-B’s delivery service not covering their area. She vows to follow up and ensure the service extends to all parts of Del Valle.

While pursuing H-E-B’s involvement, Fuentes is simultaneously exploring alternative ways to provide food access, such as forming a grocery store co-op. However, this effort is still in its early stages.

In the interim, community-driven solutions are emerging. Nonprofit organizations like the Del Valle Community Coalition are operating a food pantry at the El Roy Library to assist those in need.

Del Valle’s struggle serves as a reminder of the importance of food access for any community, especially a rapidly growing one. As the city grapples with a critical gap in access to essential resources, the voices of residents like Robledo, Elias, and Fuentes are championing their cause, striving for a brighter, well-fed future.

KVUE’s Boomtown series delves into the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more stories on this phenomenon, visit

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