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Fight Against Hunger Gets a High-Tech Edge

Sep 4, 2014

The fight against hunger is getting a high-tech edge.  Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was in Bradenton today to announce a new program to make it easier to match food relief programs with hungry people.

Adam Putnam talks with students helping bag sweet potatoes at the hunger relief forum
Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Putnam helped local Future Farmers of America students unpack donated sweet potatoes during a hunger relief forum in Bradenton, sponsored by The Mosaic Co.

"So which school are you all from? Palmetto? Good to have you here."

He then unveiled "Florida's Roadmap to Living Healthy." That's a fancy name for a mapping-technology tool to determine where so-called "food deserts" are and match the people living there with resources that are already available  

"And you can drill down to the census track level and use this tool so that the local food bank doesn't have to be spending their scarce resources developing an IT device - let us do that at the Department of Agriculture level and let them take that information and do what that neighborhood needs," he said.

The mapping program uses Geographic Information Systems, or GIS technology, so people can look at statistics from a statewide view right on down to street level. Putnam says this is the first time a state agency has employed GIS technology to identify gaps in resources on a statewide level.

Outside the event at Renaissance on 9th, Cindy Sloan was busy directing the students to arrange bags of food donated by farmers. She's director of the Food Bank of Manatee County.

Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News

"What we're trying to do is bring the community together," she says. "The people who can think of new ideas, inventive ways to get the food from the farms to the people who need it, through the channel of the food banks. We're trying to figure out ways to eliminate hunger in our community, because hunger in our community is creating health issues, which creates a huge expense on our economy."

You can find out more about the new statewide program on the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services web site.