Matt McClure is a first-year master of regional and city planning candidate at the University of Oklahoma. Matt is an inquisitive and enthusiastic student interested in alleviating food insecurity for underserved and underrepresented communities. His commitment to social change and building equitable communities is apparent through his work in Africa, where he helped establish safe and reliable water and power for a village in Uganda, as well as his ongoing commitment to promoting healthy, local, sustainable food options for residents of his home state. He is innovative in his approach to solving problems, thinking beyond the constraints of current practices to consider how advances in the way we grow, harvest, and utilize food will adapt to changes in climate and technology. He is currently working on a research project to explore the availability of healthy food options around schools in Oklahoma City to develop public policy solutions for making sure students have the opportunity to make healthy choices on their way home from school. In the coming year he will begin a project to formulate a food system plan for the City of Oklahoma City as means of helping to chart a more sustainable and healthy future for residents.
I became passionate about improving food systems after my internship at a small agri-tourism farm in Texas. On the farm, I developed a passion for intimately connecting people with their food to address environmental externalities and public health concerns associated with food systems. I became an avid gardener and even started a business to install and maintain backyard gardens. Although this business endeavor was not a financial success, I took the lessons and skills I had learned to work with a local non-profit that installs and maintains school gardens. This experience convinced me that schools are the ideal agents for improving community food access, food awareness, and empowering future generations to support local and urban production. I am currently building on this research by investigating food environments surrounding OKC schools using ArcGIS, census data, and on-the ground analysis to identify schools most in need of school garden and fresh food options. I also developed and maintain an automated gardening exhibit at the National Weather Museum. My next goal is to create a detailed plan for the OKC metro to increase innovative urban agriculture activity as a means of improving fresh food access for all, but especially vulnerable and low-income populations.