Learn more about successful projects and research studies advancing healthy food access in the community:
- Portal Profile: Common Market
- Portal Profile: Fare & Square
- Portal Profile: Mariposa Food Co-op
- Research Spotlight: Can the Introduction of a Full-Service Supermarket in a Food Desert Improve Residents' Economic Status and Health?
- Research Spotlight: Residents' Diet and Perceptions Changed After a New Supermarket Came To a Food Desert, But Not Because Of Supermarket Use
- Research Spotlight: New Neighborhood Grocery Store Increased Awareness Of Food Access But Did Not Alter Dietary Habits Or Obesity
State & Local Policy Efforts
Despite the positive impact of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (see below), inequitable access to healthy food retail in the state still exists: Many lower-income communities across the commonwealth have both poor access to healthy food and high rates of diet-related death. The uneven distribution of grocery stores in Pennsylvania leaves a disproportionate number of lower-income people without access to nutritious food. This issue impacts more than 15% of the state’s population, as over 2 million Pennsylvanians, including more than 500,000 children, live in lower-income areas with limited access to a local grocery store. The Food Trust, Reinvestment Fund, Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association and other groups are undergoing efforts in Pennsylvania to call upon the state to reinvest in the FFFI.
In 2015, The Food Trust conducted a voter opinion poll to capture
Pennsylvanians’ attitudes toward improving healthy food access and investing in public-private partnerships to finance healthy food businesses. The poll found that:
- Pennsylvania’s children should have access to fresh, healthy food: 79% of respondents believe it is important that children have healthy food access in their neighborhoods.
- Pennsylvania should invest in healthy food financing: 70% of respondents are supportive of financial incentives that encourage businesses to open grocery stores in areas where children do not have access to healthy food.
More details about the campaign, including The Food Trust’s Pennsylvania voter opinion poll methodology, can be found at www.thefoodtrust.org/Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative
The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI), launched in 2004, was a public-private partnership among the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Reinvestment Fund, The Food Trust, and Urban Affairs Coalition. Through the leadership of State Representative Dwight Evans, Pennsylvania invested $30 million in seed funding for the program, leading to total project costs of $190 million. FFFI approved financing for 88 projects accounting for more than $85 million in grants and loans for eligible healthy food retail businesses in underserved urban and rural communities. FFFI created or saved more than 5,000 jobs and 1.67 million square feet of commercial food retail space. FFFI ended in June 2010 when all of the state funds were deployed.
Learn more about FFFI in this four part video series:
- Part I: Multi-Sector and Nontraditional Partnerships
- Part II: Applying the Health Equity Lens to Program Design and Implementation
- Part III: Partnerships and Sustainability
- Part IV: Culturally Competent Activities and Communications
Healthy Food Retail in Pennsylvania Today
Although the FFFI funding was expended, Reinvestment Fund continues to manage a healthy food retail revolving loan fund for Pennsylvania businesses using its own investor capital, a federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative grant from the CDFI Fund New Markets Tax Credit, and the proceeds from loans repaid by FFFI borrowers.
Reinvestment Fund's 2014 Limited Supermarket Access Study, which analyzes access to healthy foods in communities across the nation, estimated that 301,397 Philadelphia residents were living in communities with low access to healthy foods in 2005. By 2013, the number was more than halved because of FFFI and other concerted efforts. Today, 187,000 Philadelphia residents' nearest option for obtaining fresh foods is at a grocer financed by Reinvestment Fund. In all, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania experienced a 38 percent net increase in grocery stores between 2005 and 2013.
The Pennsylvania initiative continues to draw national attention for its success in improving access to fresh foods, job creation, and economic revitalization in underserved communities statewide. The program has been recognized by Harvard University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Governors Association, and the National Conference of State Legislatures as a model for communities nationwide committed to combating obesity and improving food access. For more information on the program, go to Reinvestment Fund's Healthy Food Retail webpage.
Background and Advocacy
Creating the PA FFFI started with The Food Trust’s mapping in 2001 of neighborhoods in Philadelphia that were lower-income, had poor access to a supermarkets, and suffered from higher rates of death from diet-related disease. These findings were published in a report, Food for Every Child: The Need for More Supermarkets in Philadelphia.
The maps engaged city leadership around the issue of healthy food access and its connection to health. As a result, in 2003 The Food Trust convened the Philadelphia Food Marketing Task Force, which met to identify the barriers to healthy food retail development and come to consensus around a series of policy recommendations to overcome these barriers. The task force released a report, Stimulating Supermarket Development: A New Day for Philadelphia, specifically recommending the state develop a business financing program to support local supermarket development projects. This report, along with the leadership of Representative Dwight Evans and other key champions, led to the creation of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative.
For more information on how to advocate for and create a state or local healthy food financing Initiative: The Healthy Food Financing Handbook: From Advocacy to Implementation.
For a full understanding of Healthy Food Financing Initiatives from advocacy to implementation, see The Food Trust’s Healthy Food Financing Handbook.