Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Healthy Food Financing Handbook

The Food Trust and The Reinvestment Fund have published a handbook for public health and community development organizations that outlines the advocacy and implementation process of state and local policies that encourage healthy food retail in underserved communities. Research indicates that over 29.7 million Americans live in communities where it is difficult to find healthy, affordable foods. Communities lacking supermarkets, for example, have higher rates of diabetes and other diet-related deaths. In addition to ensuring that children and families have access to healthy foods, the lack of such foods – and retailers that provide them – is an economic issue as well. Supermarkets can spark revitalization efforts in communities by generating foot traffic, attracting nearby complementary stores and creating jobs for local residents.

This new handbook – Healthy Food Financing: From Advocacy to Implementation – is based on the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, an initiative designed to address both the health and economic vitality of under-resourced communities throughout the state. From 2006 to 2010, the program approved funding for 88 projects across the state, developing 1.67 million square feet for retail space while creating or retaining over 5,000 jobs. More than 400,000 Pennsylvania residents have improved access to healthy food thanks to these efforts. Pennsylvania’s successful effort sparked the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) – a grants and loan program for projects that place healthy food retailers in low-income areas. Since 2010, HFFI has given funds to 47 Community Development Financial Institutions and community development corporations to finance fresh food retail projects in their regions.

The handbook released is a great resource for communities that are thinking of implementing their own healthy food access strategy. Using several case studies as examples, the handbook details four phases of advocacy and implementation:

  • preparing and informing, 
  • engaging and empowering stakeholders, 
  • strategizing and developing recommendations and 
  • changing policy. 

In the first phase, the foundation for a successful movement is made by compiling data, including gathering maps and other sources of information the low-income areas that lack access to healthy foods and, as a result, may have high rates of diet-related diseases and other consequences. In Pennsylvania, maps helped stakeholders in the community understand the scope of the problem.

The second phase involves creating multi-sector partnerships to strengthen the argument. These partnerships can include supermarket industry leaders, public health and economic development officials, children’s advocates, community leaders, civic officials, and financial sector professionals. Bringing a group of diverse partners together can bring new perspectives to the table, as well as an array of resources and expertise that can generate potential strategies and solutions.

After conducting the research, informing community stakeholders, and creating partnerships within the community, it is time to develop an action plan to create change during phase three. In order to do this successfully, the partnership is convened to analyze barriers to healthy food access and develop policy changes that would improve food retail development and access to healthy food choices.

Finally, phase four includes releasing a final report of policy recommendations to the public to policymakers at the state and local level. Policy recommendations will vary from community to community, but common suggestions include prioritizing food retail in community development, supporting workforce training programs for the supermarket industry, reducing regulatory barriers, and financially supporting supermarkets that are developed in underserved areas.


To learn more about the development of HFFI, check out the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s brief “Aligning Resources and Results: How Communities and Policymakers Collaborated to Create a National Program.”

No comments:

Post a Comment