Monday, May 24, 2010

The Food Desert

One thing has become clear in my work these days is the lack of real sources of healthy food in neighborhoods. Yes, we find that the better neighborhoods have their selection of grocery stores, delis, and co-ops. When you get into the middle and low-income neighborhoods we see a drastic difference. Usually no food choice or if there is a grocery store, not the best selections. This seems to be the case in the Twin Cities where the food choices are unevenly distributed throughout our metro region.

The Grocery Gap shouldn't be news:

Urban revitalization does not at first glance relate to the growing national interest in fresh fruits and vegetables. But the Pennsylvania-based Food Trust views the supermarket as the perfect starting point for improving the commercial viability of a neighborhood. When the group launched back in 1992, it was originally dedicated to expanding farmers' markets throughout Philadelphia. Today, the group is working tirelessly to eliminate food deserts--areas without any access to "real" food.

To accomplish this goal, the Food Trust is working with Pennsylvania lawmakers to develop a series of public/private partnerships that address food access problems. One such program is the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a grant and loan program that encourages supermarkets to open in underserved areas. The group is also working on nutrition policy for Philadelphia schools and is helping corner stores improve their produce offerings. Yael Lehmann, The Food Trust's executive director, spoke with The Atlantic about what supermarkets can accomplish for cities nationwide.

It seems we are finally starting to see the connections between land use, transportation, housing, job centers, and now food. We still need to bring education into the mix (with a host of other things), but this is a foundation on which to build and sustain healthy, affordable, and thriving neighborhoods. Just like when you bake, some the key ingredients have to be present.

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