Birmingham to allocate nearly $300K to battle food deserts

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 11:52 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - As a way to combat food deserts across the city of Birmingham, the city council approved an ordinance to transfer $298,686 for a grant to create a food sovereign program. The goal of this program is to identify areas of need and to help bolster healthy food options across the city. 

A food desert is described as an urban area where it’s difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.

Food insecurity is an issue that impacts a majority of residents in the city of Birmingham and the city council has made concerted efforts to help address this situation. 

“Building equity in our community, especially as it relates to food insecurity, must address these issues in such a way that ensures healthy, affordable food options for residents that live in one of Birmingham’s designated food deserts,” Councilor Crystal Smitherman said. “This past year, I partnered with local farmers and vendors for monthly farmer’s markets across District 6 in Birmingham. Not only was this an opportunity for residents to access fresh produce, but also allowed them to build relationships with local farmers.” 

According to a 2022 study published by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in Alabama alone close to two million residents live in a food desert, and almost 150,000 of them live in Birmingham. This accounts for 69% of the city’s total population. Addressing food insecurity is as much about environmental justice as it is about racial equity. 

This budget ordinance will create a budget line item for a grant received by the USDA. This grant will help to hire a food system manager to expand food access strategies across the city. It will also help support the expansion of farmers markets in the Birmingham area.

“All of these great resources that are out here in the ecosystem, ensure that those are more readily available to our residence. We actually have a lot happening in the food ecosystem in Birmingham, and we want to make them more transparent and accessible to our residence so that they understand the range of options that are out there and their communities,” said Amelia Muller, Birmingham’s Civic Design Principal.

The city has already received a grant of this nature, which is being utilized by Jones Valley Teaching Farm to create a food fellowship program to establish urban farms across the city.

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