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Eighty percent of our city’s population doesn’t have access to healthy affordable foods; 100% deserve it

July 7, 2014

April Odom
Mayor’s Office of Public Information
(205) 807-7411

Birmingham today welcomed the members of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team: Linda Goudreau, an IBM strategy consultant from Washington, D.C.; Joseph Noonan, an IBM software architect leader from Chattanooga; Henry Rohrer, an IBM software solutions manager from Philadelphia; Idrissa Thioune, an IBM senior management consultant from New York; and Joseph Voss, an IBM consulting services executive from San Francisco.

From July 7th to 25th, the IBM team will live here and help Birmingham identify and analyze ways that the city can improve the economic vitality and health of its neighborhoods by ensuring that a greater number of residents have access to essential services, particularly supermarkets and affordable, healthy food options.

According to Birmingham Mayor William A. Bell, Sr., eighty percent of the city’s population doesn’t have access to healthy affordable foods; 100% deserve it.

The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge competitive grant program is a worldwide initiative to provide pro bono consulting services to the most progressive cities around the world. The project carries an approximate value of $500,000 and requires no tax dollars.

“This project is a shining example of how public-private partnerships are valuable in the City of Birmingham,” stated Mayor William Bell.

“We are very excited that Birmingham has been selected this year as one of 16 cities from around the world for the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge. The UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center will work closely with City leaders and the IBM team to develop strategies to reverse problems with food deserts,” said Dr. Fouad H. Fouad, Director of the Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center at UAB and chair of the UAB Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering.

With a target date of July 25th to unveil an initial report, the IBM consulting team plans to spend the time interviewing local community stakeholders on the challenges the city faces, become immersed in all of the issues surrounding food deserts and ultimately recommend solutions to further contribute to our revitalization efforts.

This project supports many related initiatives that are already underway such as the Mayor’s RISE program. RISE is a transformative program that will further assist in changing the landscape of the City of Birmingham into one that continues to be healthy, livable, sustainable, and conducive to the diverse lifestyles of community residents.

“We continue to see the astonishing impact programs like RISE have had in other cities. People can make a real, positive and noticeable difference right where they live. This is a real opportunity to address an issue that I am passionate about solving,” said Mayor Bell.

The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge was started in 2010 and has since helped more than 100 municipalities around the world. Birmingham was one of only three U.S. cities and 16 municipalities worldwide in 2014 selected to receive this highly coveted award.