Adam Putnam announces web-based mapping tool to fight Florida’s “food deserts”

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With thousands of hungry families statewide, the state of Florida is employing the latest high-tech gadgets, including web-based mapping, in an effort to combat “food deserts” throughout the Sunshine State.

Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Adam Putnam unveiled the “Florida Roadmap to Living Healthy” program at the second annual Florida Hunger-Relief Forum in Bradenton.

Hosted by The Mosaic Company, the phosphate fertilizer mining and manufacturing company based in Polk County, Thursday’s event at the Renaissance on 9th featured policymakers and nutrition experts specializing in advocacy and action on hunger and nutrition issues.

As a keynote speaker, Putnam announced the first statewide map that connects lack of access to nutritious food and poor health indicators using an advanced web-based geographical information systems (GIS) tool.

“The possibilities of this roadmap are unlimited,” Putnam said. “It will help state agencies like mine make better-informed decisions about how we use our limited resources to support Florida communities at greatest risk.”

Nonprofits, food banks and other organizations will be able to use the tools to identify resources, and determine the most effective approaches for the maximum impact for needy Florida residents.

“With 700,000 people in Central Florida struggling with hunger and 250,000 of those children, it’s important to elevate the issue today on Hunger Action Day and continue raising awareness every day from this day forward,” said Mosaic Senior Vice President Mark Kaplan.

Food researcher Mari Gallagher, author of the groundbreaking 2006 study on food and public health in Chicago, spoke of Florida’s “Food Deserts,” the growing rural and urban areas without easy access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.

“Of great concern in Florida is that Food Desert issues exist in both urban and rural areas,” Gallagher told the audience. “It is great to see state and local leaders come together to address the challenges that residents in poor access areas face and work together to find solutions utilizing the new statewide web-based map tool.”

The conference also offered discussion panels on the role of state and local food policy in combating hunger. Panelists included Matt Knott, Feeding America; Anne Palmer, Program Director, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Bloomberg School of Public Health; Dr. Diana Greene, Manatee County Public Schools; Hank Scott, Long & Scott Farms; and Brian West, Publix Super Markets.

“Today’s event was a platform for collaboration,” said Feeding America President Matt Knott. “And it was remarkable to experience the connections being made among community thought leaders that are able to make a difference.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.