As Reinvestment Fund has worked on improving access to healthy, fresh foods in underserved communities, we have devoted significant resources to understanding such access, particularly in low-income areas.
The following are some examples of analysis Reinvestment Fund has done to understand equitable food access.
Identifying Areas with Limited Supermarket Access
Reinvestment Fund’s Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) is contributing to a deeper understanding of the characteristics of areas with inequitable access to healthy food by identifying areas of greatest need and market potential within low- and moderate-income underserved communities. The LSA analysis identifies areas with inequitable and inadequate access to full-service supermarkets. While many efforts to identify underserved areas are based simply on the distance between an area (e.g., Census tract) and the closest supermarket, Reinvestment Fund’s methodology takes into account population density and car ownership rates – two factors significantly influencing how far households can be expected to travel to shop for food. Reinvestment Fund’s method also examines demand for groceries unmet by the local area stores. Read the summary report to understand the analysis.
The LSA analysis is available for free at www.policymap.com or through the widget below.
Obstacles to Urban Supermarket Development
In 2008, with support from the CDFI Fund, Reinvestment Fund explored the extent of urban/suburban cost differences, the effectiveness of subsidy programs and the impact of supermarket development on communities. Reinvestment Fund found that there are location-specific cost differences that make creating and expanding supermarkets in urban areas more expensive than in suburban locations and discourage inner-city store development. Consequently, residents of these areas have to travel to find affordable food options or they must shop at smaller, more expensive nearby stores. As result, these neighborhoods often lose out on healthy food options and jobs. Additionally, city tax revenues are lost when residents shop in the suburbs. View the report.
The LSA analysis was also a core element of Reinvestment Fund’s work with the Opportunity Finance Network as part of the CDFI Fund’s capacity building program for CDFIs across the nation. OFN contracted with Reinvestment Fund to develop the curriculum for training workshops and contribute to an implementation handbook. The training curriculum and handbook reflect our experience working with practitioners seeking to develop, finance or incent the creation of food retail. The curriculum includes specific features of our program, including how to underwrite and finance supermarkets and how to identify optimal areas for supermarket development. Under contract with OFN, Reinvestment Fund produced Searching for Markets: The Geography of Inequitable Access to Healthy and Affordable Foods in the United States. Reinvestment Fund’s work products (i.e. report, webinars, training manuals and PolicyMap food portal) continues to exist as part of the CDFI Fund’s Resource Banks to provide ongoing assistance to public and nonprofit organizations working to address food access issues in their communities.