Today is our first full day of scheduled interviews. We have been provided an ‘office’ in Birmingham City Hall, where our stakeholders who have been scheduled to meet with us by our host city can conveniently and comfortably share their experiences and insights into the food desert issues. There are many. While we are aware this is a complex issue, understanding how it unfolds in Birmingham is enlightening and very disconcerting. Birmingham is but one city of many that is dealing with this issue, but the impacts are very real in the community. Poverty, unemployment and hunger seem pervasive and inextricably linked.
However, spirit and pride are also prevalent in everyone we speak to. Rows of vacant houses sit adjacent to well tended porches and lawns adorned with bright signs of life and vitality. Church groups, housing officials, education leaders and financial institutions, whom we interviewed today, have a keen awareness of the issues and the needs of the community. Everyone is perceptive and engaged in discussion, investigating the issues with us and sharing their own perspectives of cause, analysis, and potential opportunities for mitigation.
We began our synthesis of the issues after the long day of interviews was over. Time to begin planning the report! While we still need a variety of input from stakeholders not yet tapped and much team analysis, the tight schedule (only 14 days till the draft report is due for internal review!) makes it imperative to be working on multiple aspects of the Challenge in parallel. This effort is daunting, but the objective, and the community, drives the team forward. We look forward tomorrow to another insightful day tomorrow meeting more fantastic stakeholders of Birmingham.