$400M Healthy Food Financing Initiative Proposed in Presidential Budget

A $400 million investment in fresh food programs for low-income communities has been suggested in the recently released 2011 Presidential budget proposal.

The public-private grant and loan program would invest in new and expanded supermarkets, farmers markets and other food stores in “underserved communities,” reducing the estimated 23 million Americans (8.5 percent) with limited access to full-service markets.

According to VegNews, “for every $100 spent in a local store, approximately $68 is reinvested in the community. Buying locally comes other ethical feel-goods, such as less harm on the environment and a source for jobs.” Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

Officially called the “Healthy Food Financing Initiative,” this investment, shared between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of the Treasury builds in a $250 million New Market Tax Credit allocation program to encourage private investment in these communities.

A similar program was started in Pennsylvania in 2004. The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) has supported nearly 80 projects to provide more than 400,000 Pennsylvania residents with healthier food choices. The program has also created or preserved 4,860 jobs and 1.5 million square feet of food retail space, according to The Reinvestment Fund (TRF).

Widely recognized for its innovative design, the Pennsylvania FFFI, championed by State Representative Dwight Evans, has served as a model for similar programs in other states including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana and Colorado.

“Grocers and market owners across Pennsylvania deserve credit for making the PA program a success and a model, not just in the state’s urban centers, but in rural communities as well,” said Rep. Evans.

House representatives Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore) and Nydia M. Veleazquez (D-NY) and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Harry Reid (D-NV) are spearheading the national initiative efforts.

TRF methodology was used to determine supermarket access and gap analysis.

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