Improving health and sparking economic development
Limited Access to Healthy Foods
It’s getting more and more difficult for Americans living in underserved areas to make the healthy choice, the easy choice, because there aren’t well-stocked grocery stores or corner stores nearby. In Michigan, 1.8 million people — including 300,000 children — live in communities with limited access to healthy foods. Understandably, these families generally buy and eat what is available, not what is healthy.
As a result, residents of these urban and rural communities across Michigan are more likely to have problems with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health problems. Working middle-class families in rural Michigan can also struggle with these issues because they simply don’t have year-round access to fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses, and other nutritious options at their local stores.
Healthy Food Financing
Everyone in Michigan deserves access to affordable, healthy foods. Healthy food financing can make the difference. It’s a viable, effective, and economically sustainable solution to the problem of limited access to healthy foods. Healthy food financing attracts grocery store investment and expansion in underserved communities by providing critical loan and grant financing to fresh food retailers. These one-time resources help retailers overcome the higher initial barriers to entry into underserved urban and rural communities, and support renovation and expansion of existing stores so they can provide the fresh, healthy foods that communities want and need.
Healthy Food Financing Public-Private Partnership Model
States and cities across the country are investing in healthy food financing programs. In Pennsylvania, where this model was first developed, the Fresh Food Financing Initiative has approved funding for 88 supermarkets and fresh food outlets in underserved rural and urban areas, creating or retaining over 5,000 jobs in those communities, and increasing healthy food access for 400,000 residents. This public-private partnership created in 2004 utilized $30 million in state seed money spread out over three years.
Similar financing programs have since been created in 7 states and several cities including: New Orleans, Memphis, Tenn., Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Colorado and California. These states and cities implemented a similar public-private partnership model, which has resulted in 150 projects, employing over 6,000 people ensuring nearly 1 million people have access to healthy food. Momentum is growing, with efforts underway in nearly a dozen other states, including North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi. Healthy food financing improves the health of children and families, creates jobs, and stimulates local economic development in urban and rural communities. It’s time to bring this program to Michigan.
Additional Information and Resources
› Access to Healthy Foods and Why It Matters: A Review of the Research. PolicyLink and The Food Trust, 2013.
› Healthy Food Financing Handbook: From Advocacy to Implementation. The Food Trust, 2013.