Moffitt Cancer Center is pairing with the state to see if making fruits and vegetables available to children in areas with limited access to them can decrease their risk of cancer.
Researchers, led by Dr. Nagi Kumar, Moffitt's director of Nutrition Research, will use Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' "Roadmap to Living Healthy" data to look at "food deserts" - areas that don't have access to healthier food - and compare children there to children in places where it's more abundant.
"We will be looking at 2,000 children in the school systems in their pre-adolescent (9 to 14) years and we'll be examining how they eat and what other lifestyle factors are contributing to their risk of cancer," Kumar said in Tallahassee Wednesday.
"We know that we have communities that have greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables and communities that have less access," said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. "And while we all work jointly to even out that playing field, we believe that there is a research opportunity here that will help those same kids who are walking through the lunch line right now with their tray, that what we learn from this study will allow them to live longer, healthier lives, and hopefully not have to endure many of the impacts of cancer that people in our generation are all too familiar with."
Kumar said that by creating healthier diets in young people, cancer rates should fall later in life.
"These early years of life are periods of maximum growth and development, which means, if we can make changes in this target population, we can accomplish the goal much more easily than when they actually get cancer," Kumar said.
More than 75 Moffitt researchers, physicians, caregivers and patients were in Tallahassee Wednesday for "Moffitt Day," an annual meeting with state lawmakers to advocate for the Tampa cancer center.