“We Needed to Do Something”

Meet Dwight Evans, Representing the 2nd District of Philadelphia

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The West Oak Lane Farmers Market pops up each Tuesday through the summer at the intersection of Ogontz Avenue and Walnut Lane, just steps from U.S. Congressman Dwight Evans’ Philadelphia office. But Congressman Evans remembers a time before it opened: “A supermarket had shut down” in the neighborhood, recalls Evans, who then served the community in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. “I was trying to find a way to fill that gap.” He turned to The Food Trust for assistance.

Together, Evans and The Food Trust brought affordable, nutritious food to West Oak Lane; the popular farmers market is celebrating its 15th season this year.

As Evans learned more about the importance of food access for public health and the economic vitality of a neighborhood, he continued his work with The Food Trust and other partners to help communities throughout the state and the country through the creation of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative and the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative. Simply put, he says, “we needed to do something.”

Those public-private partnerships provided financing for grocery stores and other fresh food retailers to open in communities that lacked access to healthy foods, sometimes called “food deserts.” In Pennsylvania alone, the initiatives made healthy food more available to an estimated 400,000 underserved residents throughout the commonwealth.

The congressman is now continuing his work on the issue in his role on the House Committee on Agriculture. “Back in ’04, I don’t even know if ‘food desert’ was part of the vocabulary,” he says. “Now you hear those kind of conversations in the White House and the United States Congress. … The needle has been moved, and a nation has been moved.”

Learn more about The Food Trust's work to address food access issues through policy change

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This interview is part of our weekly "25 Years, 25 Stories" series, spotlighting some of The Food Trust's diverse voices in healthy food access. If you would like to support our work, please click here to make a tax-deductible donation today.

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