S+M completes first phase of food desert tech solution
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food desert
The company is now looking for public and private partners for phase two.

S+M, a tech startup that offers digital mobility solutions and products, has completed its first phase of a federal grant process and has begun planning phase two, which combined will yield $1 million in federal grant funding. 

The company is developing a new set of applications designed to address food deserts throughout the U.S., areas where access to affordable, nutritious food is scarce. 

“This grant certainly was an essential part of getting this product to the people who need it, people who currently do not have great access to food sources,” S+M co-founder and CEO Sam Mahdavian said. “Now, we have a great opportunity to impact the lives of individuals in our community with the backing of the U.S. (Department of Transportation) and (its) Volpe Center.”

The program includes two segments. The first includes a web app to be used as a planning feature for governments, nonprofits and any other groups hoping to map food deserts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified more than 6,500 food deserts throughout the nation. 

With the app, users can select a boundary to investigate and look at its status on social equity, grocery store availability, and transportation equity and availability. 

The program provides users with the ability to find optimal food-to-people and people-to-food transportation options, allowing users to invest in areas facing the lowest accessibility score. 

Next, the company is creating a consumer-facing mobile app that will allow residents living in food deserts to find resources, such as transportation and online shopping. It also provides information about healthy food and nutrition and a tool to track nutritional ingredient intake. 

“Food deserts have a direct correlation to the health of the residents living in those areas, increasing the rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more,” Mahdavian said. “While there are many programs available to provide food for lower-income individuals, there is a significant issue when the only choices within walking distance are convenience stores and fast food.”

S+M plans to work with local governments and nonprofits in its next phase to provide tools to areas deemed food deserts within Central Florida. 

Mahdavian launched S+M in 2021 after a long career as a data scientist, including at the University of Central Florida College of Engineering and Computer Science. S+M is a client of UCF’s Business Incubation Program.

“What Sam is working on is a perfect example of the smart cities cluster we’re working to create at the UCF Business Incubation Program and it is impressive what they have already accomplished,” Incubation Program Director Carol Ann Logue said. 

The food desert project is part of S+M’s “connected communities” division, which also works on low emissions and sustainability engineering, as well as transportation safety. 

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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