Healthy Food Access in Pennsylvania
Building on Success, Reinvesting in Communities, Creating Jobs
In 2001, The Food Trust released the report Food For Every Child: The Need for More Supermarkets in Philadelphia, finding that many communities across the city had poor access to healthy food. As a result of this research, The Food Trust convened the Philadelphia Food Marketing Task Force in 2003, which met to identify the barriers to healthy food retail development and create a series of policy recommendations to overcome those barriers. The task force published a report, Stimulating Supermarket Development: A New Day for Philadelphia, recommending that the commonwealth create a public-private business financing program to support development of local supermarkets.
In 2004, in response to the task force’s recommendations, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The Food Trust, The Reinvestment Fund and the Urban Affairs Coalition launched the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) — the nation’s first statewide healthy food financing program. Seeded with $30 million in state funds over three years, the FFFI provided one-time grants and loans to grocery operators and other healthy food retailers to build or expand markets in lower-income, underserved communities. The program concluded in June 2010 when state funds were fully deployed.
Despite the positive impact of the FFFI, inequitable access to healthy food retail continues to have negative effects on Pennsylvanians: Many lower-income communities across the commonwealth have both poor access to healthy food and high rates of diet-related death. In addition, towns and neighborhoods without grocery stores miss out on the economic benefits created by local businesses, such as jobs and local tax revenues. The time has come for Pennsylvania to reinvest in the FFFI.
With a track record of success, Pennsylvania is poised to strengthen its comprehensive policy to increase access to healthy food, revitalize communities and create jobs by reinvesting in the FFFI.
A series of maps, created by The Food Trust, demonstrates areas with greatest need relative to healthy food access in Pennsylvania by illustrating the distribution of supermarket sales, household income and diet-related mortality. The uneven distribution of grocery stores in Pennsylvania leaves a disproportionate number of lower-income Pennsylvanians in rural and urban areas without access to nutritious food.
In 2015, The Food Trust and Terry Madonna Opinion Research conducted a voter opinion poll to capture Pennsylvanian's attitudes toward improving healthy food access and investing in public-private partnerships to finance healthy food businesses. The poll found that the vast majority of voters believe that healthy food access for children is important (79%) and that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should invest in healthy food financing (70%).