We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about 2021, and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live in what will surely be a changed – and charged – post-Covid world. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2021.
Food insecurity has been a longtime challenge in St. Petersburg and across Pinellas County, where more than 134,000 residents are unable to get enough nourishment to sustain an active, healthy lifestyle. While the events of 2020 have certainly caused an uptick in food insecurity, they’ve also shined a spotlight on the need for creative and innovative long-term solutions to the problem.
Carla Bristol, the collaboration manager at the St. Pete Youth Farm, has been at the forefront in advocating for new ways to address food insecurity. She’s spoken at recent city council meetings in support of an ordinance that will expand opportunities for the production and sale of locally grown produce. And in her role at the Youth Farm, a program aimed at empowering youth to get involved with urban agriculture, she’s looking forward to diving deeper into the challenge of food insecurity in 2021.
One of the things Bristol is most excited about is breaking ground on a new farm site, at 1664 12th Street South, which will allow more community members to visit and learn. There are plans to hold workshops to teach people all the different ways they can grow their own healthy food, including hydroponically.
“We hope that these methods being highly visible in the community of greatest need will shift eating options and drive healthy outcomes,” she said.
But Bristol doesn’t plan to stop there, and she’s continuing to think big because that’s what it will take to eliminate food insecurity in St. Pete.
“What if we could not only grow food and community, but also create aquaponics?” she mused. Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture, which is growing fish and other aquatic animals, and hydroponics which is growing plants without soil. “Then you could have a full one-stop shop in the community for fresh, healthy food and learning.”
After a tough year, she’s encouraged that anything is possible.
“I’ve learned that we can agree to disagree,” she said. “We can embrace our differences and listen to each other and we can take ideas – even if they’re not our own – and implement them for the good of the community.”