Can Blockchain Help Food Deserts In South St Petersburg?

Pandemic, elections, racial unjust, supply chain interruptions, food insecurity, outdated technology, economic crisis- our country has been

Dana Tate
April 19, 2021
Can Blockchain Help Food Deserts In South St Petersburg?

           Pandemic, elections, racial unjust, supply chain interruptions, food insecurity, outdated technology, economic crisis- our country has been battling some heavy situations week after week. For many Americans, putting food on the table is now a struggle.

I have been fortunate enough to live in a community where I have access to the basic necessities, including food- but I worry everyday about those Americans who are not as fortunate. What happens to people who have not had access to such crucial resources this year? What happens when there isn't a local grocer in your immediate area?

Areas within South St. Petersburg, FL are USDA designated food deserts. This means that people living in the community do not have access to organic, fresh, healthy foods and have to travel many miles to get to a grocery store. What food people have readily available to them has a direct correlation to their overall health and many experts suggest that those living within a food desert put people at increased risk for obesity and diabetes. The last grocery store to serve the South St Petersburg community closed its doors 4 years ago, leaving local residents no options for easily accessible healthy foods. Many have had to rely on convenience stores for food, which are high in sugar and fat and have no nutritional value. Many cannot afford to spend money on gas or use a ride-share service such as Uber. Many are rightfully worried about traveling, often to multiple stores, for essential items in the midst of COVID. Even with a strong sense of community in the area, the overwhelming number of residents in the South St Petersburg area are facing the same hurdles when it comes to food accessibility. The need for fresh fruits and vegetables is undeniable for this area of St Petersburg.

I see an overwhelming opportunity for blockchain technology and local leaders to combine forces to help vulnerable people and close the food access gap in South St Petersburg. At BlockSpaces, we have been working on such a solution. A mobile app, that would directly connect minority farmers to minority consumers, and minority owned grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and restaurants, as well as food banks and schools. The application would allow producers to distribute fresh food to an area directly and allow food service coordination across a network of farmers and distributors without reliance on third party intermediaries. While the front facing interface will consist of an easy to use mobile app designed around the personas of different network participants/users, the back end will offer a robust, flexible, blockchain based solution that has the ability to connect to larger blockchain networks giving farmers and distributors the ability to add a fully customizable inventory and food management system. This would without a doubt be a game changer for this area, giving local residents access to healthy foods all while supporting local farmers.

As a graduate of University of South Florida’s College of Public Health, where I learned about the devastating impacts that food deserts have on the overall health of communities, and as a resident of South St Petersburg who sees firsthand the lack of resources available for healthy food in the community, I believe that it is imperative to leverage innovative technologies such as blockchain into communities like South St Petersburg and other underserved areas of the United States as it has the potential to strengthen food systems, bring communities relief, bring a positive impact to the community and deliver assistance more effectively. To read about BlockSpaces House Bill 4119: Food Equity & Racial Disparities in Food Supply Chain Blockchain Pilot: St Petersburg, check here.