Finally, a little good news concerning the nation’s rising obesity rates: rates among children in some cities and states are starting to drop.
What’s behind the success? Jim Marks, senior vice president and director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group says there is a pattern among the cities with the most significant declines. Most are implementing multiple, comprehensive programs that target both schools and communities by upping the availability of healthier foods and encouraging more physical activity and educational opportunities.
That includes tapping into as many different venues where people eat and buy food as possible. For instance, since 1992 Philadelphia has worked with The Food Trust to help corner stores fill their shelves with fresher foods, bring better food to under-served markets, connect schools and farms and require acceptance of food stamps at farmer’s markets.
Corner stores — often thought of as a source of unhealthy foods — can be key partners in the effort to improve access to healthy, affordable foods. Evaluation by The Food Trust and Econsult Corporation has shown that the corner stores in Philadelphia that have introduced healthier produce to store shelves have resulted in healthier choices, healthier businesses and healthier communities.
Blog post from Rhea May, Fairmount Ventures
The Food Trust has worked tirelessly over the past twenty years to ensure access to healthy and affordable food for everyone. In Philadelphia, where food deserts are depressingly common and even part of our city was named the second hungriest district in the nation in 2010, assuring access to this basic human necessity can be grim work indeed. But rather than merely being a mouthpiece to these depressing statistics or shaming the public into taking action against this atrocity, The Food Trust takes a different approach to engaging the public. As anyone who’s been to Night Market can attest, they make food a celebration – and they make sure that everyone’s in on the party.
With high hopes of more to come, Mayor Annise Parker, Council Members Stephen Costello and Dwight Boykins, the Houston Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and others broke ground on the first project to target a Houston food desert. With financial assistance from the city, Pyburn’s owner John Vuong is building a first-class grocery store to serve South Union and surrounding neighborhoods. The store is scheduled to open the first quarter of 2015.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to purchase healthy food for their family,” said Yael Lehmann, Executive Director of The Food Trust. “We applaud this initiative by the City of Houston to increase access to grocery stores in underserved areas,” Lehmann said.
The City is providing a performance-based loan of $1.7 million for predevelopment, land acquisition, construction and equipment. The total project cost is estimated to be $3.7 million. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds awarded to the Houston Redevelopment Authority for economic development projects will be used for the project. Funding is available for additional projects and HRA will work with potential partners on a case-by-case basis to determine eligibility for building or revitalizing grocery stores in food desert areas.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that following his effort, Philadelphia’s Food Trust has been awarded a $150,000 grant that will allow the successful Night Markets food truck events to continue. The Night Markets have brought food trucks to neighborhoods across Philadelphia- showcasing the city’s entrepreneurs and stimulating economic activity in local communities. With the food truck industry growing in the city, the Night Markets have had an $11 million impact on the city’s economy.
From the Philadelphia Business Journal:
"It looks like more Night Markets are on the horizon in the city as the Department of Commerce announced that a series of grants were awarded in support of the Food Trust Night Markets as well as the commercial corridor enhancement in Philadelphia."
First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to Philadelphia to discuss federal funding for a Healthy Food Financing Initiative which will increase the availability of affordable, healthy foods in underserved urban and rural communities, particularly through the development of grocery stores and other healthy food retailers.
"...And I have to finally thank a few others: the Food Trust. (Applause.) The Reinvestment Fund. (Applause.) And the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition. (Applause.) You all have done extraordinary and some could say revolutionary work here in this city. And as you all have said consistently, you couldn't do it without each other. That has been the resonating message. So you all should be very proud to be highlighted here today for the work that you've done. It's really groundbreaking, and hopefully will set the tone for what we can do throughout the country."
A new study published in Preventive Medicine found that The Food Trust's corner store interventions aimed at increasing healthy food availability are associated with improvements in the availability of low-fat milk, fruits, and some vegetables, especially when infrastructure changes, such as refrigeration and shelving enhancements, are offered.
From Fox 29
The Food Trust Night Market staff and Old City Night Market vendor, Prime Stache are interviewed about Old City Night Market.
From Fox 29
The Night Market Outdoor Street Festival kicked off in Old City on Thursday.
Dozens of vendors are gearing up for a celebration of food and music.
The festival showcases the city’s diverse neighborhoods and food by partnering with local restaurants, food trucks, regional musicians and dynamic artists.
The Night Market will be held on four Thursday evenings, in four different neighborhoods.
After the Old City Market on Thursday, May 15th the festival continues with Night Markets in West Oak Lane on June 19, on Lancaster Avenue on August 21 and back in Chinatown on October 2.
"The arrival of warm weather in Philadelphia means the start of 'Night Market'
It's a great summer tradition, and the first of this year's events took place in Old City. They call it 'the roving street food festival,' and there was plenty of food to choose from."
A new pilot program in Philadelphia aims to help improve people's health by setting up inside local corner grocery stores.
"I can think of no better place than a corner store in the neighborhood, unannounced, where folks come to have a nice conversation in a place they are comfortable with," said Dr. Jim Plumb, Jefferson Center for Urban Health.
From Salud America
Before Olivares Food Market began selling and promoting healthier food options, the store looked like an average corner store. But Clara Santos soon learned she could make some changes that would impact the whole community.
"...if you find yourself visiting Philly during the more tender months of the year, Headhouse is one of the best places for eaters, bar none. Exceptional locally-grown fruits and vegetables, pastured meats, sustainable seafood, excellent cheese, chocolate, there is so much inspiration to be found in the stalls of this historic marketplace. Stop for a cup of Bodhi coffee or a cup from Philly Fair Trade Roasters, pick up a Market Day Canele, and stroll the stalls."
Headhouse Farmers' Market re-opens May 4, 2014.
From Health Affairs Blog
The Cummins et al article “New Neighborhood Grocery Store Increased Awareness of Food Access but Did Not Alter Dietary Habits or Obesity,” published in the February issue of Health Affairs, generated considerable media attention, with headlines claiming that grocery stores do not contribute to healthy diets or reductions in obesity. However, the study offered no conclusive proof showing that access to grocery stores is not a part of the solution to preventing obesity.
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.
From Associated Press
January 2014 -- "We try to get people to try a sample, and in that process we talk to them about eating whole grains, and trying out new things, and showing them where healthy items are in their corner store," said [The Food Trust's] program educator Maria Vanegas.