11.7 million people better served with targeted investments in equitable food systems
Philadelphia, PA, April 21, 2020—Reinvestment Fund today released a new analysis that identifies Rural Food Access Investment Areas (Investment Areas). These Investment Areas are places in rural America that do not have easy access to healthy food retail but have the market demand to support investments in new and existing place-based solutions. Reinvestment Fund has identified 1,472 Investment Areas that are home to 11.7 million people in the rural U.S.
“The sustainability and inequities of our food system have never been more glaring, particularly at this time when food stores have been deemed essential businesses and are lifelines for our communities,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “Investing in a resilient and just food system is vital for our nation and that includes the small businesses and essential workers that build and sustain our rural food economy.”
Communities, policymakers, investment practitioners, and food access advocates can use the analysis to identify opportunities for investing in solutions to address the gaps in rural food access. This could include small-scale retail solutions, food supply chain interventions, and investing in existing stores to preserve food access.
“I am excited about the Reinvestment Fund’s analysis identifying rural food access investment areas,” said Dr. David Procter, director of Kansas State University’s Rural Grocery Initiative and a partner in the Kansas Healthy Food Initiative. “We are very interested in understanding where the greatest need and best opportunities exist to invest our limited resources to strengthen rural America’s access to healthy foods.”
The analysis looked at the 48 states in the contiguous U.S. and found that every state, no matter how big or small, how rural or urban, has at least three such Investment Areas. California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee each have more than 50 Investment Areas; Pennsylvania and Texas have the most, 71 and 118 respectively. While the most populous Investment Area (located in southern Arizona) is home to more than 158,000 people, many Investment Areas have only about 2,000 people living in them. Most Investment Areas are home to between about 3,500 and 8,500 people.
“This pandemic has demonstrated the important need for communities to have access to local supermarkets that can provide access to fresh and affordable foods,” said Greg Ferrara, President and CEO, National Grocers Association. “The loss of local supermarkets negatively impacts communities during the best of times, but can mean the difference between being able to feed your family or not during a national crisis like we’re experiencing today.”
The analysis builds off Reinvestment Fund’s Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) analysis, which identifies areas with both need and market support for investments to improve food access. The LSA analysis identifies areas in the country for investment in new, full-service supermarkets to meet the needs of communities with limited access to healthy food.
The Rural Food Access Investment Areas analysis was developed to better serve rural communities, where relatively small population centers and a trend of disinvestment has created challenges for larger-scale full-service supermarkets. The data from this analysis will be accessible for free through the PolicyMap platform.
About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund is committed to building strong, more equitable communities by making health, wellbeing, and financial security available and accessible to families, regardless of income or zip code. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in 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. Reinvestment Fund also administers America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative, on behalf of USDA Rural Development to improve access to healthy food in underserved areas. More at reinvestment.com.