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Center for Design Practice Aids in Virtual Supermarket Development

Program brings food to Baltimore's Hungry

Posted 06.29.10 by MICA Communications

Food Deserts in Baltimore and Supermarket Locations, 2010

BALTIMORE--The latest endeavor of MICA's Center for Design Practice (CDP), a research division at the College, housed in the Office of Research, that explores the relationship between visual creation and the scientific process, offers inner-city Baltimoreans access to healthy food choices in the form of a Virtual Supermarket.

In collaboration with the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD), the CDP developed an innovative program, with a website and branding by MICA students, that helps Baltimoreans maintain a healthy diet with access to fresh food. Called a Virtual Supermarket (VSM), Baltimoreans living in locations void of nearby supermarkets and rampant with fast food restaurants, areas known as food deserts, can log on to the website of the partnering grocery store, Santoni's Supermarket, and order healthy eating options. Later that day or the next, the food can be picked up at one of two of the current locations, the Enoch-Pratt Free Library's branches in Washington Village and Orleans, located in Oldtown on Central Avenue.

LEARN: An infographic about Baltimore's Food Deserts created by Christopher Muccioli '11.
WATCH: WBAL TV story; Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledged "the talented students and staff at MICA's Center for Design Practice, who have helped market the program while actively trying to impact social change with art."



There are more than two dozen individuals taking advantage of this innovative program, which began in March. Thanks to these efforts, participants not only have increased food options available to them, but also the opportunity to help create a healthier Baltimore.

The Health Department hopes to branch out and develop new sites in other food desert communities, involving other grocers and libraries. As sites develop, an educational component on healthy foods and lifestyles will be incorporated into the sessions, including cooking demonstrations for example.

MICA and BCHD will each fund a graduate fellowship to help with the ongoing research, further development and continued production of an effective model for the supermarket and an associated marketing campaign for the program. This initiative will be overseen by CDP directors Mike Weikert and Ryan Clifford.

According to the Health Department's website, the project's delivery service is currently funded with a $60,000 grant from the 2009 federal stimulus package.

Hired to support MICA's research initiatives, Guna Nadarajan, vice provost for research, arrived at the college with an ambitious agenda. "Research at MICA is a strategic priority, and my challenge was to begin a dialogue on this campus that would hopefully encourage a larger national discussion," Nadarajan explained. It is his aim to lay the foundation for the "culture of research" by fusing art and science to aid in the betterment of the community.

The center brings students together with educators, professionals, entrepreneurs, businesses and free thinkers who are committed to education, collaboration and pursuing ideas with solutions not yet defined. Such projects include involvement with the Maryland Energy Administration, Biodiesel University, NADA Bikes, Arts Every Day and the Urban Forest Project.

Image Credit: Food Deserts in Baltimore and Supermarket Locations, 2010 by Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future