Today was a solid day of activities. It started with a wonderful breakfast of eggs, sausages, and homemade biscuits! After breakfast, we continued to prepare for our meetings with stakeholders both inside and outside of city government. We had a very good meeting this morning where we got an overview of the city, its history, its challenges, and its promise. There is a lot going on in the city aside from our Smarter Cities Challenge focused on food deserts. A very comprehensive master plan has been adopted by the city and is in the process of being decomposed into smaller, manageable pieces for implementation.
After a busy morning, we headed over to City Hall to meet the Mayor and other city planning officials. Birmingham’s Mayor and his staff exemplify Southern hospitality. We received a very warm and enthusiastic welcome! The Mayor expressed how delighted he was that we were here and committed to help us in any way he can during our stay. We were introduced to his team and we received a tour of City Hall, the highlight of which was a traveling Civil Rights exhibit. We also handled a few logistics since we will be working out of City Hall for the next week. Starting tomorrow, we will be introduced to the City Council and other stakeholders. The real meat of our stay will include meetings with the many stakeholders that have been involved and concerned with food deserts in Birmingham. We are all looking forward to getting into the thick of the issues. This Saturday, we will actually be taken to a couple of the food desert areas and will be given a certain amount of money and we will need to try and find the ingredients for a meal by shopping where the residents in the food deserts shop. We will bring what we find back to our base and cook and eat a meal using the ingredients. This is give us a much better understanding of the challenges the residents in these food desert areas face. The next few days look to be challenging but will ultimate help us frame the problems and start to formulate so short, medium, and long term solutions.