Health Isn’t only for the Rich: Getting Underserved Communities Better Access To Fresh Food
Although dieticians and physicians insist that a diet full of fresh, local, organic, foods is the answer to many common health problems (not to mention the smart alternative to over-processed, pesticide-ridden conventional foods) accessibility has proven to be a huge roadblock for the people that are most in need of a fresher diet.
In his 2011 budget proposal, President Barack Obama is attempting to address the urgent need for bringing healthy food options to underserved communities by calling for more than $400 million in investments in new and expanded supermarkets, farmers markets and other food stores.
With the exception of CSA’s, most people interested in buying locally grown organic produce and other foods have found that price tags are often significantly higher, not to mention that if you live in the middle of an urban metropolis, they can be hard to find.
According to a recent press release, the public‐private grant and loan program would dramatically reduce the roughly 23 million Americans who have limited access to full‐service supermarkets and create tens of thousands of retail and construction jobs in low income communities.
The $400 million investment, split among the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Service and U.S. Department of the Treasury, includes $250 million in New Market Tax Credit allocations to spur private investment in underserved communities.
So much of the way people eat, purchase, and think about food is established when they are young. Those without access to fresh foods at reasonable prices are more likely to grow up detached from the food production process, and without an appreciation for farmers or sustainable agricultural practices.
Re-educating people about the significance of fresh foods and their connection to good health will go a long way in fighting dietary illnesses that are beginning to take hold in younger generations of Americans; but it must be coupled with access to fresh food retailers so that people can put their new knowledge into action.
“It’s hard to make healthy food choices until you have nearby healthy food options,” said Judith Bell, President of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute that has been working with the White House, the Senate, and the House to create a national‐scale version of the successful Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative.”It is not merely coincidence that low‐income communities of color with poor access to healthy foods are also getting hit worst by the obesity and diabetes crises. The president’s budget signals a strong commitment to bringing healthy food – and good, long‐term jobs – to communities that have been without either for far too long.”
Since the Pennsylvania program began in 2004, the state has invested $30 million which has supported $165 million in total project investment. These 78 projects have provided more than 400,000 Pennsylvanians with healthier food choices in their communities and have created or preserved 4,860 jobs and 1.5 million square feet of food retail space.
(For more information on the Pennsylvania and national efforts, please click HERE).
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