Junior Rashad Williams is sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Strategic Communications and Political Science major with a concentration in Pre-Law at Hampton University, he is studying abroad in China this summer.
By: Matthew White
The Hampton University Department of Marine and Environmental Science is bringing fresh foods to downtown Newport News. The department in partnership with the Greater Southeast Development Corporation (GSDC) and Virginia Tech have developed an aquaponic system to produce fresh foods. The project is funded by a $75,000 grant the department received from Virginia Sea Grant.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as urban neighborhoods and rural towns that lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the community. The only grocery store in downtown Newport News closed during the summer of 2014, hence the communities' Federal designation as a food desert.
"The objective of the program was to develop and conduct programming to enhance sustainable seafood supplies, said Dr. Deidre M. Gibson, Associate Professor and Chair of Department of Marine and Environmental Science. "As well as outreach and educational programming integrating: bay education; safe and sustainable seafood through aquaculture and fisheries; seafood quality, safety, post-harvest handling, and marketing."
The program operated in three phases: 1.Education and training for students in aquaculture and seafood products. 2. Communication and outreach training. Students were trained in science communication best practices, including aquarium audiences, K-12 audiences, and general public audiences. 3. Ambassador outreach.
For three weeks the student ambassadors led activities and programs at the Moton Community House in downtown Newport News to educate the public about sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. The ambassadors trained of community members in how to produce their own fish and fresh plants through this sustainable system that uses the wastes of fish species to cultivate the growth of plants as well as produce fresh meat products thus eliminating the food desert.
"The two biggest products that came out of this project were helping educate the community and the student body having a chance to engage and learn from the local community," said Justin Schafier, senior marine and environmental Science major. "It was a great opportunity for us to engage the larger Hampton Roads community and help foster this relationship going forward to maintain the aquaponic system."