SMU grad student works to fix South Dallas food deserts

An SMU grad student is going back to his roots to make his mark in parts of South Dallas that need help.

DeVincent Martin is helping provide fresh food to underserved communities in an area considered a food desert. At 47, Martin isn't the typical SMU grad student. His baseball cap is a casual reference to the combat he saw in Operation Desert Storm.

 “I remember a bunch of fireworks looking like the Fourth of July on the outside and my lieutenant said we're ready to dismount,” Martin said.

After his service, Martin went into sales. But he later went back to school, using his veteran’s benefits. A personality test suggested he try environmental studies.

“I said well, I'm an old fighter, I'll go fight for the environment,” Martin said.

Martin quickly learned of the desperate need in South Dallas for food options, especially produce. He began mapping the local gardens -- something that hadn't been done there before. He began figuring out how to best leverage their precious resources.

“I consider them local assets. I don't even consider them community gardens because they offer one of the few opportunities for those elderly citizens or children who don't have access to healthy food,” Martin said.

Martin works with SMU Professor Dr. Owen Lynch at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Garden.

“We allow community members to come and pick a vegetable and they can take this home and eat it,” Lynch said.

Lynch believes the South Dallas area food desert has been over researched and underserved. So the Freedom Garden provides seedlings that kickstart other community gardens.

Lynch says Martin's connection to the community has been invaluable.

“What DeVincient was able to do was come in with his earnest belief to make this better and this data will make that happen,” Lynch said.

After graduation, DeVincient will go on to work in partnership development with Trammel Crow's EarthX -- the big expo that takes place at Fair Park in April.