A Tough Nut to Crack - Team Member Spotlight


Owen McGrattan (he/him) grew up in a small farming town outside Stockton in Northern California. His family lived on and managed a walnut orchard for over ten years, and in high school he worked at a cherry-packing company. The weather in this area provides perfect conditions for growing these types of expensive crops.

You would guess that his family would have tons of recipes for walnuts - a la Forrest Gump's pal, Bubba, and his shrimp - but you’d be wrong. Owen's family keeps it simple with pie and shelled nuts.

Still, Owen is a tough nut to crack. He's an expert in knowing how to relax and keep calm. "It's about being able to shut off your brain for a period of time." This casual attitude allowed him to keep an open mind about his career path.

When Owen attended the University of California at Berkley, he was still determining what job he wanted on the other side of his degree. "I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I liked solving problems in general. I knew [data science] was the right fit because a lot of other majors set you on a certain career path in a certain industry. I wanted something where I had the flexibility to move throughout different industries."

Owen is the first of his four siblings to venture away from California. He moved to Texas specifically to work at the Food Bank. "Once I graduated college, I was looking for work where I'd feel good about what I was doing and still aligned with what I studied, and this was the perfect meld of those two things."

Owen serves as a Data Analyst on the Food Bank's Strategic Insights team. He's responsible for responding to internal data requests, storing and reporting on data for our programs and building dashboards for quarterly reporting.

One of the significant projects Owen has worked on is our new Food Access Convening Tool, or FACT. FACT identifies areas where our neighbors face food insecurity and uses real-time data to map gaps in services within the organization's 21-county service area. It also allows the Food Bank to better embed equity in our planning processes by providing key demographic data and showing the impact of strategies beyond food distribution—such as SNAP assistance and workforce development—that reduce food access gaps, giving an even more accurate picture of the food insecurity need and how to meet it.

Owen enjoys the FACT project because he gets to use predictive modeling, and the research goes beyond just data analytics. For this tool, you must understand how the numbers impact each other and consider what other factors might be at play. For instance, to what degree does unemployment or the area you live in determine your risk of food insecurity? Examining these questions keeps the project interesting for Owen and allows him to contribute directly to our mission.

"Owen works steadily behind the scenes and supports other teams through data and analytics. He is always ready to lend a helping hand, open to feedback and improvement, and delivers on his commitments to others." -Tracy Ayrhart, Vice President of Strategic Insights

Owen is the Central Texas Food Bank's September 2022 Employee of the Month. He enjoys watching baseball and exploring how to cook international street food at home.