Project Food to focus on food deserts

Florida A&M University alumna Qasimah P. Boston will host the eighth annual “Ten Toes Down” symposium at FAMUs Developmental Research School. The event will focus on the connection between food insecurity and children’s mental health and public safety.  

The first symposium was held in 2011, the inspiration for this event comes from Boston’s efforts as a community organizer in the Frenchtown and south side neighborhoods. After volunteering and speaking with members of the community, the severity of food deserts and their effects on health were brought to her attention.

Families in low-income neighborhoods are living in figurative “food swamps” and “food deserts” due to the unavailability of grocery stores in different neighborhoods. Because of this, many families obtain most of their meals from fast food stores, and if food was to be purchased it would be from a convenience store.  

Extensive research shows that food deserts are linked to obesity and other damaging health issues.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “Households with limited access to supermarkets may rely more on fast food or carryout restaurants to satisfy their needs for foods … a greater reliance on fast food could adversely affect the diet and health of those who have limited access to supermarkets.”

This realization led to extensive research in partnership with the Greater Realization Council, Cultural Arts & Natural Design International, the University of Florida and the Institute of Public Health at FAMU.  

Although Project Food started as a grassroots movement, food insecurity is a global issue. Boston’s goal for Project Food is to develop young leaders who will actively work to put food and hunger at the forefront of public discussions. “Putting food and hunger on agendas (will create) better health outcomes for us all,” said Boston.  

Nonetheless, Project Food has inspired many local food initiative efforts. The 2015 Leon County Sustainability Summit Report has outlined the role of Leon County to “contribute to the creation of a countywide network of associations to promote and develop community gardens..”

Boston hopes that the symposium will encourage participants to become a part of the conversation and take action. “I hope that participants will feel empowered to be part of action-oriented change that helps eliminate health disparities,” Boston said. 

The symposium will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at FAMU DRS.