The problem of food inequity must be solved, not sustained, the CEO of an organization that helps to bring healthy supermarkets to low-income areas said Tuesday.
“Put yourself out of business,” Atif Bostic, the director of Uplift Solutions, said in a keynote address at Grace Hall on Cabrini Day. “Every day I’m working to put myself out of business because it’s about solving the problem.”
The theme of Cabrini day was “food matters” and the keynote speaker helped hone in that idea. Bostic’s work with Uplift Solutions has made efforts to improve people’s access to quality food, healthcare and other social issues.
Growing up in a low-income situation, Bostic was inspired to make change for people in the spot that he was once in. He was driven to improve people’s conditions because he understood what it was like to struggle financially.
Bostic was aware that many low-income families did not have access to supermarkets and were forced to shop at convenience stores. These stores had higher prices and lacked healthy options. As he began his work in making social change, Bostic helped develop a program that built more supermarkets in low-income areas for families to shop at. However, he realized that the people were initially not coming at all or still shopping for the same unhealthy items.
“Just because you build a supermarket doesn’t mean people will come,” he said. “It isn’t Field of Dreams.”
Bostic then spoke about the approaches his team had to take in order for people to use their new resource properly. They brought in healthcare resources into the supermarket. Families were given information about their diet and health. The supermarket also began to train and pay employees who could not get jobs elsewhere. This slowly brought in more people to shop at the supermarket like it was intended.
With help from a system already in place in the city of Pittsburgh, Bostic was involved in the development of a food transportation system in Philadelphia. Volunteers could be contacted to take food to people who needed it.
In a city where a million pounds of food goes to waste each month, this transportation system rescued 400,000 pounds of food in the last year with the help of 700 volunteers.
Bostic spoke about how he believes life is all about helping people. He wants to make change throughout his life with his work and called others to do the same in his address.
“What does your life and everything you do add up to?” he said.
He believes that making true change and solving problems is what life is all about. Bostic wants to put himself out of business by solving the social issues that he is working to solve.
“If I’m working to stay in business then I’m actually perpetuating the problem,” he said. “…I do challenge you to at the same time think about how every day you put yourself out of business in solving those problems.”