Birmingham – Day 4

HealthyFood1 The IBM SCC Birmingham team is truly hitting stride in our discovery of the complex issues of food deserts and their impact on the population in this city. We have met remarkable people and have conducted detailed interviews with over 25 stakeholders over the past 4 days. We have had very candid and revealing discussions with civic leaders, neighborhood groups, bank presidents, educators, school board presidents, business leaders, volunteers, charitable organizations and research academics. We have had input from government stakeholders as diverse as county food bank administrators to federal officials from Housing and Urban Development. We have gained the insight and perspective from prominent local chefs, organic activists and urban teaching garden directors. We have met with clergy who manage food distribution networks for the elderly. We have interviewed the prominent grocers in the area and have toured their stores in the most effected neighborhoods. And we have only just begun! Our team is simply amazed by the common bond that that connects this disparate group of people together: the love of Birmingham and the passion and resolve to make their city a better place for everyone. We are so fortunate to have been able to spend time with so many talented, motivated people and organizations all working for a better future in this remarkable city. Make no mistake about it: the challenges are daunting and the progress slow. Much of the City of Birmingham suffers from limited access to supermarkets, grocery stores, and affordable healthy food options. The lack of quality food options leads to major health problems at every age level (particularly in the youth and elderly) for residents in Birmingham’s blighted neighborhoods. Like many other urban areas in the United States, the incidence of childhood obesity, type II diabetes and malnutrition have reached alarming levels in Birmingham. These problems are compounded by a shrinking population in many neighborhoods and the associated decline of the property tax foundation needed to provide adequate services for transportation, public safety and education. Despite these challenges our team has great reason to be optimistic for the future of Birmingham. We have been witness to a passion and commitment that is quite remarkable. The young, energetic women and men we have met, many who have left Birmingham to see the world and return to contribute to their hometown, are extraordinary examples of the kind of people who have met and conquered Birmingham’s challenges of the past. This is a city of character. This is a city of hope. We look forward to tomorrow and meeting more of the people of Birmingham.

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