Community health project aims to fight food deserts

Effort to put community garden in near USF
Posted at 5:45 PM, Dec 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-28 17:45:41-05

Imagine a two-hour round trip to get to a grocery store. That's the reality for hundreds of people in Tampa who don't have cars.

"Getting there, and then getting back," Sylvia Blaxton told ABC Action News. "And then on rainy days, oh my goodness."

Blaxton lives in the University Square neighborhood and for her, a simple trip to a nearby Walmart is anything but. With no car, she relies on public transit and says it can take hours.

"You've got to catch the bus down on Nebraska," she said. "You've got to sit down and wait."

ABC Action News wanted to see how long it takes to get to that grocery store just driving there. An eight-minute trip by car for our news team can take Blaxton much longer.

"An hour and a half on the city bus," she said. "That is too long."

But now there's a new effort underway to get people in the University Square/Terrace Park neighborhood access to more fresh food.

The City of Tampa was awarded a 2016-2017 Planning Technical Assistance through the Department of Economic Development, to review the City's Comprehensive Plan related to "Health in All Policies" with a focus on food access in the Terrace Park/University Square study area. The Planning Commission, in partnership with the Florida Department of Health – Hillsborough County, Office or Health Equity and the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization, is leading the project.

The goal of the project is to address suburban and urban scale healthy, affordable food access in that area and potential problems residents face such as bad roads and infrastructure and transportation issues. Those are problems some people know only too well.

"If your car breaks, you're done," said Kevin Winbush, who lives in the neighborhood.

The City of Tampa is also working to discuss the need and location of a potential community garden site in that neighborhood.

"I think it would be great for the kids," Winbush said.

Blaxton believes a simple garden could be life-changing for her family.

"It would be closer.," she said. "We don't have to drive that far. We don't have to catch the bus. Sit in that sun, waiting on the bus."

City workers will be addressing the garden project with the community in February.