Filling the Grocery Gap: Financing Healthy Food in “Food Deserts”

February 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm 1 comment

The Administration’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal, released this week, includes a $25 million appropriation for the Healthy Foods Financing Initiative, which is a part of the overall $221 million the President is requesting for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).

The First Lady’s mantra, “Let’s Move,” has spurred families, government agencies, and groups across the nation to move into action and improve the health of our country. As we all work to find our rightful place in this Healthy Foods movement, it’s becoming clear that small businesses will play a vital role in making it possible.

The key to the success of this program is being able to get healthy foods into low-income areas where healthy options are dangerously out of reach. While many Americans enjoy the ability of choosing whether to take carrots or potato chips for lunch, there are millions of Americans who do not have that choice. In a 2009 report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that 23.5 million people, including 6.5 million children, live in low-income areas that are more than one a mile from the nearest supermarket. Not surprisingly, low-income communities suffer disproportionately from a number of health problems stemming from poor diets, namely heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

To improve the food options for these “food deserts,” many are recognizing that it will take a network of small businesses, farmers, truckers, nutrition specialists, and neighborhood coalitions to create a sustainable healthy food system. Small businesses that are either already embedded in these communities, or that are seeking to open up shop, will play an important role—but they will need financing to expand their products to include more nutritious foods.

Having access to funding specifically designated for healthy foods related business will motivate local store owners, business leaders, policymakers, concerned residents and other stakeholders to create some real solutions to solving the grocery gap in their neighborhoods. The $25 million, if approved, will be a modest yet good start. These funds will allow CDFIs to make loans to small businesses that demonstrate that they are doing their part to sustain health and wellness in the most rural and low-wealth parts of the country.

Programs like this will bring a host of economic and social benefits, and start us on a journey to ensure that all communities have healthy, fresh food options.

– by Vicki Lee Parker, Development & Communications Director



Entry filed under: CDFI, Economic Development, Healthy Foods, Small Business. Tags: , , , .

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