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News August 20, 2018

17.6 Million Americans Have No Easy Access to Healthy Food in Their Communities

Philadelphia, August 20, 2018—Despite gains over the past decade, limited access to healthy food continues to affect residents of both urban and rural communities across the United States—which is why Reinvestment Fund recently updated its Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) analysis. According to the 2018 update, 17.6 million people (5.6% of the population) live in LSA areas, a decrease of 3.1 million people (or 15%) from 2010.

The LSA analysis measures access to healthy food by determining which areas are well-served by supermarkets and which have relatively limited access. But Reinvestment Fund’s LSA analysis is unique in going beyond simply identifying areas with limited access; it also measures the extent to which LSA areas can support new or expanded food retail.

“For more than a decade, we have worked to ensure that all Americans have equitable and adequate access to healthy food,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “The LSA has been at the core of our evidence-based approach to solutions that bring improved access to healthy food as well as economic opportunity to communities across the country.”

Reinvestment Fund’s 2018 LSA analysis is the second update to the data, which was first released in 2011. The latest update will make available LSA data from 2010 through 2016. The data will be accessible for free through the PolicyMap platform. Over the years, Reinvestment Fund’s LSA analysis had been funded through support from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund through the Opportunity Finance Network, JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the William Penn Foundation.

The 2018 LSA analysis update shows that while access to healthy food in the United States over all has improved over the last decade, progress has not been even in all areas. In some areas, improvements in food access have been followed by setbacks. And in some areas, access to healthy food has even declined, sometimes substantially.

Among the “top ten” states where food access has improved, the number of people living in LSA Areas declined by more than 30% from 2010 to 2016. North Dakota, Idaho and Iowa saw significant declines in underserved populations. On the other hand, Maine and Nevada had substantial increases in their LSA populations from 2010 to 2016. While most states had declining LSA populations, many lagged the national decrease of 15%, including states that had substantial population growth like Florida and Arizona.

The analysis also identifies states and metro regions where LSA areas are disproportionately inhabited by low-income residents and people of color. Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are the top three states where LSA areas are disproportionately located in low-income areas. People of color are also disproportionately concentrated in LSA areas in these places. In Rhode Island, 91% of the LSA area population are low-income, compared to 44% nationally.

For the 2018 LSA, Reinvestment Fund updated the timeframe for the longitudinal analyses, revised and simplified population density and car ownership classes, and created a new rule to move block groups from one class to another over time. Each of these enhancements increases the utility of this tool by incorporating more recent data related to supermarket locations, sales, demographics, and spending power. The updated longitudinal analysis also more reliably tracks changes in food access over time.

By incorporating more recent data related to supermarket locations, sales, demographics, and spending power, Reinvestment Fund and other CDFIs can strategically target their investments in both new and expanded food retail operations to maximize their impact.

In its role as the National Fund Manager for the USDA’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), Reinvestment Fund has also committed to conducting targeted analyses in rural communities and communities of color to identify potential steps to address limited access to fresh food. The 2018 update to the LSA analysis creates opportunities to pursue multiple lines of inquiry to better understand the changing landscape of limited food access, and to better understand these patterns in rural areas. Reinvestment Fund will release a ‘Rural Supplement’ to the 2018 LSA update later in 2018 that will focus specifically on trends in food access in rural areas.


About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund, a social enterprise lending organization, is a catalyst for change in low-income communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access—creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. To learn more about Reinvestment Fund, visit

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