Advocates for improving access to healthy food expressed their strong disappointment that House and Senate Agriculture appropriators failed to include funding for a critical healthy food initiative
May 23, 2014 – New York, NY – Advocates for improving access to healthy food expressed their strong disappointment that House and Senate Agriculture appropriators failed to include funding for a critical healthy food initiative proven to revitalize local economies, expand access to healthy food, and improve health across the United States. Proponents of healthy food access including The Food Trust, The Reinvestment Fund, and PolicyLink urged Congress to support full funding for the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI).
The 2015 spending bills were released and debated this week, and the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees chose not to allocate funds toward HFFI, authorized in the 2014 farm bill for $125 million which would officially establish a federal program at the United States Department of Agriculture. Without this funding, the initiative will not be able to expand its reach to new rural and urban communities around the nation.
Healthy food retail holds benefits that extend beyond meeting local demand for affordable, nutritious foods. Access to healthy food brings triple bottom-line benefits to communities—a revitalized economy, job creation, and better health. But nearly 30 million Americans still live in low-income areas with no or limited access to supermarkets. The problem is particularly acute in low-income communities of color.
HFFI provides one-time grants and loans to healthy food retail outlets—including grocery stores, farmers’ markets, co-ops, and public markets—that want to set up shop in low-income communities.
Since the 2011 fiscal year, HFFI has helped leverage more than $109 million in grants and an estimated $1 billion in additional financing, supporting more than 100 projects. In Baltimore, MD, The Reinvestment Fund used HFFI dollars to help finance a 68,000 square foot supermarket in the Howard Park neighborhood, an underserved community that has been without a supermarket since 2000. The store, which opens this summer, is bringing 250 jobs and will include a health clinic and pharmacy along with community rooms. Taking funding away from the initiative now, will curtail the program’s ability to reach additional states and communities.
Healthy food access projects have garnered broad-based support from the grocery industry, including the National Grocers Association, business and community leaders, public health officials, and philanthropists who recognize that in addition to providing healthy food options, healthy food retail can generate investment, create jobs, and advance community well-being.
“We urge Congress not to waver on their leadership and commitment to improving community health by improving access to healthy food,” said PolicyLink President Judith Bell. “Supermarkets and other healthy food retail represent more than healthy food choices — they are also about creating jobs, supporting community businesses, and revitalizing neighborhoods. HFFI has been proven to work in creating equitable and sustainable access to fresh and healthy foods across America. Now is the time to continue efforts to ensure all communities have access to healthy food.”
“TRF has seen firsthand the community benefits that come from financing healthy food projects,” said The Reinvestment Fund CEO Don Hinkle-Brown. “In low-income communities, these healthy food retail projects bring more than improved access to affordable nutritious foods — they bring much-needed jobs
and serve as economic anchors that spur local investment. We owe this to the communities we serve. Congress must fund HFFI to continue this momentum.”
“The inclusion of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative in the farm bill promised new jobs, economic opportunity, and healthier food for millions of Americans in need,” said The Food Trust Executive Director Yael Lehmann. “Congress should keep that promise.”
As Congress completes deliberation on FY 2015 budget appropriations, it is imperative that HFFI is not left behind.
Full text of the House Subcommittee’s bill is available here. For more information on the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative, please visit the Healthy Food Access Portal at www.healthyfoodaccess.org.
PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works ®. www.policylink.org, Contact: Judith Bell, President, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Food Trust, founded in 1992, is a nonprofit organization working to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food. www.thefoodtrust.org, Contact: John Weidman, Deputy Executive Director, email@example.com
The Reinvestment Fund, a community development financial institution, invests in distressed markets and conducts research on policy issues that influence neighborhood revitalization & economic growth. www.trfund.com, Contact: Patricia Smith, Senior Policy Advisor, firstname.lastname@example.org