In America, no child should go hungry, and no parent should have to choose between eating healthy and eating enough. Established in 1933, the Farm Bill is the United States government’s primary vehicle for funding policies and programs relating to food and agriculture—from food safety and nutrition education to employment practices and conservation efforts. Every five years, Congress reauthorizes this sweeping piece of legislation in an effort to prevent hunger, bring fresh foods to communities lacking access, and add vibrancy and diversity to the local food system.
However, funding for critical programs that uplift our food system and provide nutrition benefits to millions of Americans is under threat.
The Trump administration announced its plans for the 2018 Farm Bill, including billions of dollars in cuts that would directly impact families and farmers across the country. The plan, which includes government delivery of a canned food box, has the potential to dramatically disrupt the American food system from farm to fork—exacerbating hunger and health problems, and resulting in store closings and job losses in urban and rural communities alike.
In the Philadelphia region, these issues threaten to dismantle a strong and thriving community foodscape — from food retailers in danger of losing their jobs to farmers at risk of losing their livelihood. Urban and rural communities are inextricably linked through the food system, and each piece of the Farm Bill addresses these connections in one form or another. Food ties us together; and together, we can ensure our food system is resilient, equitable and healthy for years to come.
Where you live can have a huge influence on your day-to-day decisions about what to eat. Over the years, researchers have studied the matter to better understand how our environment can both support and undermine our health and diet. One important finding has been that low-income communities and communities of color often have the fewest places to purchase healthy, affordable food.
As a response to this public health crisis, federal, state and local governments have sought to combat food deserts and food swamps (often one and the same) by starting programs like healthy food financing initiatives (HFFIs), which provide low-cost financing to grocery stores that want to invest in underserved communities. These programs increase access to — and build demand for — healthy food in communities with high rates of diet-related disease and food insecurity. They also provide more jobs in communities that often have high rates of unemployment.
For 30 years, Pittsburgh's Hill District lacked a supermarket, that is, until the opening of a Shop 'n' Save in 2013 through an HFFI program. A recently released study by the RAND Corporation has found that the opening of the new grocery store resulted in less food insecurity and fewer new cases of diet-related disease for community residents. Hill District residents have since experienced fewer new cases of high cholesterol, arthritis and diabetes over time when compared to a similar community that did not receive a supermarket. The supermarket community also experienced less food insecurity, lower SNAP participation and increasing resident incomes. (Since less than 1% of the community moved away from the neighborhood, these improvements can’t be linked to gentrification.)
This study provides strong evidence that introducing a new supermarket in a previously underserved community brings both health and economic gains for local residents. That news alone should encourage elected officials to take more action and double down on their investments to ensure that new and improved supermarkets -- and their corresponding health and economic benefits -- exist in every ZIP code nationwide. No one should have to wait 30 years for a grocery store, and every child should grow up in a community where affordable, healthy food is within reach.
"The farmers market is my happy place.” The Food Trust promotes a healthy lifestyle by providing Rochelle and others access to fresh produce in urban Philadelphia. See how they do it.
Video provided by CNN and Aetna's "American Health Ambitions" series.
The Food Trust was founded 25 years ago with the mission “to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions.” The word “everyone” is important because we as an organization are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion and justice.
The Food Trust is a public health organization and a social justice organization. In light of these most recent events in Charlottesville, VA, we feel it is important and necessary to explicitly and uncategorically reject the notions of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and hatred and bigotry, as well as denounce those who would intimidate, oppress and injure some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
The Food Trust believes that the events in Charlottesville are the most recent examples of horrific individual racism but understand that historical and structural racism have resulted in other forms of violence towards marginalized communities since the inception of this country, and continue today. As one example, as a result of racism, racial minorities bear a disproportionate burden of trauma, morbidity and mortality.
The Food Trust works with partners from all across the country to increase access to healthy food and reduce health disparities. While working to achieve our mission, we also have a responsibility to contribute towards a more fair and just society for all. In this spirit, we will speak out against oppression; we will serve as an ally to those who face oppression and to those who are committed to justice and equity; as the situation dictates, we will take the appropriate role of ally, follower or leader to achieve our common goals and dismantle systems of oppression wherever we encounter them; and we are prepared to make sacrifices for our commitment to these causes.
The Food Trust will utilize every resource within its power to work towards a more just society, and we look forward to working with those of you who share these ideals and values.
The Food Trust
Philadelphia, May 23, 2017– In its recently released budget, the Trump administration has proposed cutting $192 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program, which is responsible for putting food on the table of vulnerable populations across the country. More than half of program participants are children; among the remaining half are large numbers of seniors, the disabled, veterans and working people struggling with low wages. Approximately one in five Americans will be on SNAP at some point in their life.
These drastic cuts would have a negative impact on families and communities across the country. Without proper nutrition, not only will children’s health deteriorate over time, but their academic performance will suffer, as well. Parents will be at higher risk for diabetes, obesity and other diet-related diseases, and their health care costs could rise significantly. The cuts would have other negative economic consequences, too: notably, a detrimental impact on supermarkets, grocery stores and farmers markets in low-income communities, where dollars from SNAP are a critical component of retailers’ weekly sales and farmers’ livelihood.
While the President campaigned on a message of jobs and economic security for all, now in office he is proposing policy changes that will result in more hunger and fewer communities with access to healthy food. Many of those most affected would be working-class rural voters who make up his base of support.
The Food Trust will work at the federal level with partners across the country to urge members of Congress to block these cuts and ensure that SNAP continues to protect the most vulnerable among us.
—Yael Lehmann, Executive Director, The Food Trust
The Food Trust’s Center for Healthy Food Access is a national collaborative effort working to ensure that every child in the United States has access to nutritious, affordable food. For more information, visit centerforhealthyfoodaccess.org.
Visit The Food Trust's Press Room by clicking here.
Philly.com has recognized The Food Trust as a 2017 Top Workplace in the Philadelphia area. Top Workplaces are not only better places to work but are more likely to be successful than peer organizations.
These awards are based soley on feedback from our staff. To view the full list of top companies and organizations in Philly, click here.
On Feb. 16, 2017, Get HYPE Philly!, a collective of 10 nonprofits led by The Food Trust and funded by a $5 million GSK IMPACT Grant, was named a winner of the inaugural Health Means Business Healthy10 Awards by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
The awards, created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, honor 10 outstanding business-led initiatives or cross-sector collaborations between local businesses and traditional and nontraditional partners to improve community wellness and access to economic opportunity.
“Get HYPE Philly! has already inspired nearly 20,000 young Philadelphians to eat healthier, get moving and develop their leadership skills,” said Becki Lynch, Manager, Community Partnerships at GSK. “We are so proud to support this work to make Philadelphia an even healthier community.”
Read the full press release here.
The Food Trust, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is launching a national collaborative effort – the Center for Healthy Food Access – that will work to increase access to and demand for healthy foods and beverages in underserved urban and rural communities.
“Through our 25 years of working on these issues, we know that accessing healthy food is still a challenge, particularly for children and families in low-income neighborhoods, communities of color and rural areas,” says Yael Lehmann, executive director of The Food Trust. “Now more than ever, it’s important for diverse stakeholders to come together to demonstrate our support for programs and policies that can make the healthy choice the easy choice in every neighborhood.”
Read the entire press release here.
It’s a high compliment to be considered one of the raddest women in Philadelphia. The second annual Rad Awards were held last night at Stratus Rooftop Lounge as part of Philly Tech Week. The event is an offshoot of rad-girls.com, which celebrates awesome local women. ...
Accordingly, in her acceptance speech, Lehmann gave individual shoutouts to the other nominees. “I just want to say that all the other nonprofits, I have a lot of respect for,” she said.
July 23, 2013 – In her remarks to the National Council of La Raza in New Orleans, First Lady Michelle Obama talked about the progress the country is making in addressing the childhood obesity issue and acknowledged The Food Trust's role in increasing access to healthy, affordable food:
"We are finally starting to see some results, as childhood obesity rates are beginning to drop in cities and states all across this country. We’re making progress, thanks to all of you.
"And while we still have a long way to go, the good news is that right now, we have everything we need to reclaim our children’s health – that is, if we’re willing to step up and continue to do our part in our own families and communities...
"And it’s about empowering families with the information and resources they need to make healthy choices for their kids...
"Major American businesses like Walmart and organizations like the Food Trust, which is working right here in New Orleans, are bringing fresh food into our communities. Restaurants are offering healthier menus. Mayors throughout the country are refurbishing parks and playgrounds. And we are bringing healthier breakfasts, lunches and vending machines into our school cafeterias."
From Remarks to National Council of La Raza
June 10, 2013 -- Philadelphia is a "city of neighborhoods," and a city with a diverse, local food scene. To highlight both of these attributes, the city worked with the Philadelphia-based nationally recognized non-profit The Food Trust to create Night Market Philadelphia.
The Night Market is a traveling food event highlighting Philadelphia’s premier ethnic and regional restaurants and food trucks. It’s also a citywide economic development and community engagement initiative that could serve as a model for other cities that want to use mobile vending to bring greater visibility to their local food scene and showcase their neighborhoods as hotbeds of cultural and social activity. Night Market events are generally a mix – about half and half – of food trucks and tent vendors.
May 31, 2013 -- More evidence that Americans are heeding calls to cut back on sugary drinks appears in a report from researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In 2010, U.S. children got an average of 68 fewer calories per day from sugary drinks than in 2000, according to the analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Both children and adults are drinking less sugar at meals and at snack time, the study also found.
May 22, 2013 -- Last week, both houses voted across party lines for a program that stands to make a huge difference in the health of people across the country. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees voted to include the creation of a Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) in their farm bill mark-ups. Their actions--coming after thousands of calls, emails, and letters from constituents demanding access to healthy food--made it clear that Congress is listening. They hear and understand that HFFI makes it possible to provide access to healthy foods in communities that have long gone without.
May 2, 2013 -- Wendell Pierce, star of HBO’s “Treme” and “The Wire,” joined The Food Trust, farmers, and anti-hunger and food advocates last week to brief members of Congress and their staff on policy proposals to reduce hunger, promote healthy food access and improve local economies through links with regional farmers.
Presenters, collectively known as the Food and Agriculture Policy Collaborative, outlined four policy priorities:
1. Protecting and strengthening SNAP/food stamp benefits and eligibility.
2. Increasing consumer access to fresh, healthy food and creating jobs and vibrant communities through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
3. Improving access to healthy fresh food and supporting local farmers and economies through healthy food incentives.
4. Creating economic opportunities for family farmers and expanding access to healthy food through improved infrastructure for local and regional farm and food systems.
From Scientific American
April 9, 2013 -- New evidence is confirming that the environment kids live in has a greater impact than factors such as genetics, insufficient physical activity or other elements in efforts to control child obesity. Three new studies, published in the April 8 Pediatrics, land on the import of the ‘nurture’ side of the equation and focus on specific circumstances in children’s or teen’s lives that potentially contribute to unhealthy bulk.
From the NRDC
April 3, 2013 -- The Natural Resources Defense Council announced the winners of the 2013 Growing Green Awards. These awards celebrate the farmers, business owners, and bold thinkers who are transforming America’s food system. Each one of them has pioneered ways to provide food that nourishes our families and restores our environment at the same time.
The Food Trust's Brianna Almaguer Sandoval won the Young Food Leader Award. She noticed how hard it was to find fresh, healthy food in Philadelphia’s urban communities. Instead of sending people far afield in search of fruits and vegetables, she decided to bring good food to the place people already go: the local corner store. She helped launch The Food Trust’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative to offer store owners the education, tools and financial support they need to stock fresh produce.
FROM BILL MOYERS
Childhood obesity has long been considered one of the nation’s most intractable problems, complicated by issues like race, poverty and a culture that to many seems more concerned with corporate profits than children’s health. About 17 percent of American children are obese; among low-income children, the rate rises to 20 percent. But a recent report shows that the tide may finally be turning, with childhood obesity rates declining by 3 -5 percentage points in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
The reasons for the reversal are still unclear, but it would be hard for anyone familiar with the work of Philadelphia’s Food Trust to discount the impact of that organization and others like it. We called Food Trust Executive Director Yael Lehmann to learn more about the new report and the role of activists in reversing the trend.