Where you live can have a huge influence on your day-to-day decisions about what to eat. Over the years, researchers have studied the matter to better understand how our environment can both support and undermine our health and diet. One important finding has been that low-income communities and communities of color often have the fewest places to purchase healthy, affordable food.
As a response to this public health crisis, federal, state and local governments have sought to combat food deserts and food swamps (often one and the same) by starting programs like healthy food financing initiatives (HFFIs), which provide low-cost financing to grocery stores that want to invest in underserved communities. These programs increase access to — and build demand for — healthy food in communities with high rates of diet-related disease and food insecurity. They also provide more jobs in communities that often have high rates of unemployment.
For 30 years, Pittsburgh's Hill District lacked a supermarket, that is, until the opening of a Shop 'n' Save in 2013 through an HFFI program. A recently released study by the RAND Corporation has found that the opening of the new grocery store resulted in less food insecurity and fewer new cases of diet-related disease for community residents. Hill District residents have since experienced fewer new cases of high cholesterol, arthritis and diabetes over time when compared to a similar community that did not receive a supermarket. The supermarket community also experienced less food insecurity, lower SNAP participation and increasing resident incomes. (Since less than 1% of the community moved away from the neighborhood, these improvements can’t be linked to gentrification.)
This study provides strong evidence that introducing a new supermarket in a previously underserved community brings both health and economic gains for local residents. That news alone should encourage elected officials to take more action and double down on their investments to ensure that new and improved supermarkets -- and their corresponding health and economic benefits -- exist in every ZIP code nationwide. No one should have to wait 30 years for a grocery store, and every child should grow up in a community where affordable, healthy food is within reach.
Philadelphia, May 23, 2017– In its recently released budget, the Trump administration has proposed cutting $192 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program, which is responsible for putting food on the table of vulnerable populations across the country. More than half of program participants are children; among the remaining half are large numbers of seniors, the disabled, veterans and working people struggling with low wages. Approximately one in five Americans will be on SNAP at some point in their life.
These drastic cuts would have a negative impact on families and communities across the country. Without proper nutrition, not only will children’s health deteriorate over time, but their academic performance will suffer, as well. Parents will be at higher risk for diabetes, obesity and other diet-related diseases, and their health care costs could rise significantly. The cuts would have other negative economic consequences, too: notably, a detrimental impact on supermarkets, grocery stores and farmers markets in low-income communities, where dollars from SNAP are a critical component of retailers’ weekly sales and farmers’ livelihood.
While the President campaigned on a message of jobs and economic security for all, now in office he is proposing policy changes that will result in more hunger and fewer communities with access to healthy food. Many of those most affected would be working-class rural voters who make up his base of support.
The Food Trust will work at the federal level with partners across the country to urge members of Congress to block these cuts and ensure that SNAP continues to protect the most vulnerable among us.
—Yael Lehmann, Executive Director, The Food Trust
The Food Trust’s Center for Healthy Food Access is a national collaborative effort working to ensure that every child in the United States has access to nutritious, affordable food. For more information, visit centerforhealthyfoodaccess.org.
Visit The Food Trust's Press Room by clicking here.
The Food Trust, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is launching a national collaborative effort – the Center for Healthy Food Access – that will work to increase access to and demand for healthy foods and beverages in underserved urban and rural communities.
“Through our 25 years of working on these issues, we know that accessing healthy food is still a challenge, particularly for children and families in low-income neighborhoods, communities of color and rural areas,” says Yael Lehmann, executive director of The Food Trust. “Now more than ever, it’s important for diverse stakeholders to come together to demonstrate our support for programs and policies that can make the healthy choice the easy choice in every neighborhood.”
Read the entire press release here.
The American Journal of Public Health
Effects of Proximity to Supermarkets on a Randomized Trial Studying Interventions for Obesity
OBJECTIVES: To determine whether proximity to a supermarket modified the effects of an obesity intervention.
METHODS: The study examined 498 children aged 6 to 12 years with a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile participating in an obesity trial in Massachusetts in 2011 to 2013. The practice-based interventions included computerized clinician decision support plus family self-guided behavior change or health coaching. Outcomes were 1-year change in BMI z-score, sugar-sweetened beverage intake, and fruit and vegetable intake.
RESULTS: Living closer to a supermarket is associated with greater improvements in fruit and vegetable intake and weight status in an obesity intervention.
Read the full study abstract here.
The New York Times
Taped on the glass refrigerator doors were signs warning customers about the calories contained in the products inside. “Did you know it takes 65 minutes of dancing to work off a bottle of soda?” one said. The signs are part of the healthy corner store initiative sponsored by the Food Trust, a local nonprofit that works to promote nutritious food and coordinates closely with the city. (“Choose water!” urged another, handwritten sign.)
Many urban residents do their shopping in corner stores, and the Food Trust certifies stores, helping them find and sell healthier foods.
“We don’t do much with campaigns to decrease soda,” said John Weidman, the organization’s deputy executive director. “These guys have such small profit margins that you have to couch everything in terms of, ‘This will help your bottom line.’ ” In other words, the organization doesn’t urge stores to stop selling soda. Instead, he said, the goal is to nudge customers toward healthier options, like water and low-fat milk. “It’s mostly about getting them to try healthier alternatives,” he said.
Celebrating Progress, Accelerating Change
Helping all children grow up at a healthy weight is an integral part of building a Culture of Health in every community across the United States. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will commit $500 million over the next 10 years to expand efforts to ensure that all children in the United States—no matter who they are or where they live―can grow up at a healthy weight. Together we have been able to put childhood obesity on the map as an urgent, national priority. Now there are signs we’re turning the tides on childhood obesity rates in younger children. These signs of progress are happening in schools and communities across the nation.
Video features President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, former Let's Move Executive Director Sam Kass, Executive Director of The Food Trust Yael Lehmann, and others.
From Huffington Post
Access to healthy food can bring triple bottom-line benefits to communities -- better health, new jobs, and a revitalized economy. But nearly 30 million Americans still live in low-income areas with limited access to supermarkets. The problem is particularly acute in low-income communities of color.
Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters:
Healthy food retailers—grocery stores; farmers’ markets; cooperatives; mobile markets; and other vendors of fresh, affordable, nutritious food—are critical components of healthy, thriving communities.
A new joint report by PolicyLink and The Food Trust, Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters, provides an up-to-date review of the research. Three years since our 2010 report, The Grocery Gap: Who Has Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters, the large volume of new research shows that improving healthy food access in low-income communities and communities of color continues to be an urgent need.
Without access to healthy foods, a nutritious diet and good health are out of reach. And without grocery stores and other fresh food retailers, communities are also missing the commercial vitality that makes neighborhoods livable and helps local economies thrive.