Also by Reinvestment Fund

Philadelphia Ahead of Nation in Improving Access to Healthy Food

Number of stores carrying healthy food increases by 48% in nine years

Philadelphia, April 15, 2015—The Reinvestment Fund’s (TRF) 2014 update to the Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) study that analyzes access to healthy foods in the U.S. finds that Philadelphia more than halved the number of people without access to healthy foods by introducing full-service stores to areas that had been food deserts. While improvements were seen nationwide, Philadelphia’s success in improving healthy food access makes it a clear leader on this issue.

According to TRF’s study, 133,019 people in Philadelphia lived in areas without easy access to healthy options in 2013, a decrease of 56% from 2005, when 301,397 people struggled to find healthy foods in their neighborhoods. Nationwide there was a 45% reduction in people living without easy access to healthy foods. The analysis is part of TRF’s extensive efforts to address the inadequate and inequitable access to healthy foods in communities across the country.

Philadelphia also saw a net increase of 48% in the number of full-service stores between 2005 and 2013, outpacing Pennsylvania and the nation (38% and 31%, respectively).  Interestingly, the largest increases in healthy food access in Philadelphia were during the recession and the years immediately following, when there was a 42% drop in the LSA area population in the city.

“Between 2008 and 2011, TRF invested $53 million in healthy food projects in Philadelphia alone,” shared Don Hinkle-Brown, CEO of The Reinvestment Fund. “Improving access to healthy food is a necessary and fundamental step to building healthy communities. Even in tough economic times, when capital markets were hard to reach, community lenders like TRF continued to invest in projects critical to low-income families.”

And the results are beginning to show – a 2012 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that after decades of increasing obesity rates among children, Philadelphia reported its first decline.

The maps below show changes in Philadelphia’s LSA areas between 2005 and 2013. Red stars indicate TRF-financed supermarkets, purple stars indicate TRF-finance limited-service stores and all other supermarkets are identified by grey triangles. TRF-financed retail grocers in Philadelphia are the nearest option for nearly 187,000 people. The maps show that by locating in or near LSA areas, TRF-financed stores decreased potential LSA populations by 67,000 people, with substantial decreases seen in West and North Philadelphia.


From 2005 – 2013 TRF financed a total of $74 million toward healthy food retail projects in Philadelphia alone. A large portion of the financing for the Philadelphia region was provided through the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a program TRF administered and managed beginning in 2004. From 2004 to 2010, the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) approved funding for 88 fresh food retail projects across the state and created or retained more than 5,000 jobs—while improving access to healthy food for more than 400,000 residents.

In addition to providing over $200 million in financing to support healthy food access nationwide in the last decade alone, TRF has also been a pioneer in the use of data and analysis to understand access to healthy food, particularly in low-income communities.

This trend data for Philadelphia coincides with the release of nationwide LSA data for 2014. Support for the creation of the LSA analytic was provided by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the William Penn Foundation.



About The Reinvestment Fund

TRF is a national leader in rebuilding America’s distressed towns and cities, through the innovative use of capital and information. TRF has made $1.5 billion in community investments since 1985. A Community Development Financial Institution, TRF finances a variety of projects and activities including food access, health care, education and housing, to build healthy communities in under-invested places. TRF also provides public policy expertise by helping clients create actionable solutions and by sharing data and analysis via To learn more about TRF, visit Follow TRF on Twitter @trfund or Facebook at


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