The National Endowment for the Humanities is spending more than $300,000 to talk about "food deserts" in Pennsylvania and sea level rise in Miami.
The projects are part of the federal agency’s "Humanities in the Public Square" initiative, which awarded $3.6 million worth of grants in December.
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"The pressing challenges facing our nation call for dialogue and understanding," said the agency’s chairman, William D. Adams. "There is ample evidence that communities across the nation are eager to come together to discuss the critical issues that face them as citizens and neighbors."
"Using the unique insights of the humanities, these projects address a diverse range of subjects in order to bring new audiences and organizations together," Adams said.
Those diverse topics include "food deserts," environmentalism, and the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Northampton County Area Community College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, received $156,340 for "forums and public programming that will examine humanities questions around food and community in Lehigh Valley."
The project will focus particularly on "the issues of ‘food deserts’ in low-income areas and the history of agriculture in the valley."
Another project, awarded to Florida International University, will cost taxpayers $162,242 for a "series of public events, programs, and conversations addressing the environmental threat posed to Miami from rising sea levels."
The University of Maryland received $225,000 for "Baltimore Stories," a public forum "examining the ways in which narratives around race have influenced the life and identity of the city."
The Missouri Humanities Council also received $225,000 for a "year-long series of statewide conversations about the history of cultural and social polarization in Missouri, from the Missouri Compromise in 1820 to the 2014 protests surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson."