Florida’s Roadmap to Living Healthy

Hunger Forum 2014-11Beaches, botox, and Bentleys are more associated with Florida than the 300 different commodities that are grown by some 40,000 farmers from the state. Commissioner of agriculture Adam Putnam spoke on Sept. 4 to a crowd of food bank employees, corporate executives, and nutritionists. Putnam was speaking at the 2014 Hunger Forum, sponsored by The Mosaic Company and emceed by News Channel 8 anchor and FATB board member Keith Cate. Putnam wanted to unveil his latest contribution to the state, an interactive mapping site that allows users to find resources, including farmers markets, Summer BreakSpots, and high-yield rural areas.

You can imagine how this will make my life easier, when I am thinking of new sources of food for Feeding America Tampa Bay…..

Putnam, a Republican, was the youngest state legislator in Washington when he was elected. And, he was the center of this conference organized by FATB board member Christine Smith, the head of Community Relations at Mosaic. Putnam was joined by Mari Gallagher, a research consultant, who coined the famous term “food desert” in 2006. Gallagher has spent almost a decade studying how Americans buy food, and how lack of access to grocery stores can make your health worse. She has developed ways to see neighborhoods as having mainstream sources (farmer’s markets, grocery stores) and fringe sources (fast-food restaurants, corner bodegas, etc.) Gallagher’s research has shown that people don’t go far to get the food that they eat. Even if they might take their EBT card to Sav a Lot at the beginning of the month for fresh vegetables and lean-ish cuts of meat, at the end of the month they’re eating Burger King and Popeyes. We can imagine how this impacts someone’s health, especially if they have health issues like diabetes, heart disease, or even cancer.

Joel Gittelsohn was the third keynote speaker. He’s best known for his research into so-called food deserts, such as the Navajo Reservation and Inner-city Baltimore. He has spear-headed programs that aide existing grocery stores in carrying fresh foods. He talked about how his programs could help individuals when their SNAP benefits run out, and eventually, it can address the issue when both hunger and obesity exist in the same household.

In addition, I remember two important points from two different panelists, one Diana Greene, Superintendent of Schools Manatee County, and Frank Scott, legendary farmer outside of Orlando.

  • Greene explained clearly that teachers and schools worry about how their kids eat when they come. It’s more of a problem when they go home.
  • Scott reiterated that Farmers Hate Waste.

This post was written by Jane Simon, director of procurement for Feeding America Tampa Bay.