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.
From USA Today
50 States: 50 Farmers Markets
May brings farmers markets back outdoors in major cities across the country, and we're showcasing a gathering of local growers and makers in each state to kick off the season. Shop, cook and eat seasonally with produce, spreads, goods and bread in your region at these destination events, from the various vendors open daily at Nashville Farmers Market and New Orleans' French Market, to Saturday markets in California, Kansas and Kentucky.
Find other travel-worthy farmers markets in each state across America.
USA TODAY: Special Edition
"At least 19 million Americans live in food deserts at least a mile from a grocery store in urban areas and 10 miles from a store in rural regions, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). Congress mandated the study of food deserts, also known as low-income, low-supermarket-access census tracts, as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, said Shelly Ver Ploeg, an ERS economist. But it takes more than adding shiny new markets in these neighborhoods to address this thorny problem, Ver Ploeg said. In fact, the number of supermarkets in the U.S. actually increased between 2010 and 2015. But the number of lowincome households and those without cars also increased — meaning healthy food often was still out of reach for many."
Read the full article 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.
JANUARY 18, 2017: In recognition of our work with Night Market Philadelphia and overall efforts to grow and better the mobile food business community, The Food Trust was presented with the Leadership and Advocacy Award by the Philly Mobile Food Association (PMFA).
Night Market Philadelphia has been around since 2010 and has grown leaps and bounds to host the most awaited street food festivals during the summer. It has become an institution that not only celebrates good food but also enlivens neighborhoods and empowers local entrepreneurs, The Food Trust can't wait to see what it will accomplish in the years to come.
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.
Article co-authored by The Food Trust, published in Preventing Chronic Disease:
Urban corner store interventions have been implemented to improve access to and promote purchase of healthy foods. However, the perspectives of store owners and managers, who deliver and shape these interventions in collaboration with nonprofit, government, and academic partners, have been largely overlooked. We sought to explore the views of store owners and managers on the role of their stores in the community and their beliefs about health problems and solutions in the community.
Executive director Yael lehmann's public statement
The Philadelphia soda tax will not only be a means to pay for universal pre-K, an investment in our children which could help lift an entire generation out of poverty, but is also part of a comprehensive strategy to curb the consumption of sugary drinks, ultimately helping reverse our city’s obesity and diabetes epidemic. Mayor Kenney and City Council should be applauded for taking this bold step to improve the health and well-being of Philadelphians, especially our children.
With the passing of this tax, Philadelphia is on the front lines in the battle against urban poverty and diet-related disease - and the rest of the nation is watching. Since we have their attention, it should be noted that the soda tax will serve as a part of a comprehensive approach to decrease the consumption of soda and increase access and consumption of water. ...
Read the rest of her statement here.
The Food Trust has launched an 8-week-long Summer Research Institute (SRI) running from June through August 2017.
This year’s Institute will focus on collecting data about food behaviors and food access, particularly how far residents travel to corner stores, grocery stores and farmers markets.
SRI participants work with The Food Trust's Research & Evaluation team and in small groups for field work. They also participate in weekly in-office trainings on a range of evaluation topics such as evaluation planning; research and evaluation ethics; quantitative, qualitative and geospatial research methods; data collection strategies for surveys, interviews and observations; data management, analysis and reporting; and presentation skills.
On May 4 and 5, The Food Trust, along with partners PolicyLink and Reinvestment Fund, co-hosted the fifth annual National Convening on Healthy Food Access in Washington, D.C. The two-day conference brought together over 150 stakeholders, including grantees of the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), representatives from the White House and federal agencies, grantmakers and advocates of healthy food financing from across the country.
HFFI is a partnership between the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Agriculture to provide financing for developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores and farmers markets selling healthy food in underserved areas.
To open the Convening, The First Lady sent the group these remarks.
"I knew that I wanted to work in food (and public health) when I realized there was an actual term for what I had known existed in Philadelphia all my life. I grew up in Philadelphia, but unlike many residents, I had the fortune of growing up near a supermarket. It was located in a suburb that bordered my neighborhood in Northwest Philly, a section called Cedarbrook. As a child, I remember my mother pointing out that in other sections of the city, residents did not have access to a supermarket.
Fast forward about 15 years, when in graduate school I learned that there was an epidemic of chronic disease in communities with limited access to healthy, affordable food. These places were called “food deserts.” I remember having an ‘aha’ moment and thinking to myself, “You mean to tell me this thing has a name??!!”
Access to healthy, affordable (and delicious) food seems like common sense to me – a very simple concept. That’s why focusing my work on food access, especially in under served communities, just makes sense to me…why shouldn’t everyone have access to healthy food? (Also, I love to eat. LOVE IT.)"
Learn more about Nija and the work she does to improve access to healthy affordable food in the rest of her interview.
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.
The American Journal of Public Health
Effects of Proximity to Supermarkets on a Randomized Trial Studying Interventions for Obesity
OBJECTIVES: To determine whether proximity to a supermarket modified the effects of an obesity intervention.
METHODS: The study examined 498 children aged 6 to 12 years with a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile participating in an obesity trial in Massachusetts in 2011 to 2013. The practice-based interventions included computerized clinician decision support plus family self-guided behavior change or health coaching. Outcomes were 1-year change in BMI z-score, sugar-sweetened beverage intake, and fruit and vegetable intake.
RESULTS: Living closer to a supermarket is associated with greater improvements in fruit and vegetable intake and weight status in an obesity intervention.
Read the full study abstract here.
5-Year Impact Report: Night Market Philadelphia
In 2010, The Food Trust created Night Market Philadelphia to bring communities together and celebrate the joy of food.
Today, Night Market isn’t just a busy night for food truck vendors—it’s an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and build a lasting customer base. It isn’t just one evening of celebrating a neighborhood—it’s a catalyst for sustained community engagement. It isn’t just a popular event—it’s a creator of jobs, tax revenue and real economic growth.
Read the rest of the report here.
The Healthy Food Truck Initiative is a food truck certification program that allows food trucks to prove that they are “healthy” and gain recognition for doing so. ...
“We don’t think every food truck needs to be a salad truck,” Chen said. “But by certain small changes we can encourage them to make through the program, we can provide more healthy options at these really accessible, really convenient places throughout Philadelphia.”
Several collaborations have gotten the initiative this far, including those with Penn’s Student Health Service and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. WSII is supporting the student group through its Impact Certification program, which offers “funding, guidance and light oversight,” said Stephanie Kim, associate director of community strategy for WSII.
But it’s The Food Trust that’s helping HFTI reach trucks beyond Penn’s campus.
The partnership came about by chance about two years ago, said Diana Minkus, senior associate for The Food Trust’s Night Market food truck program. A colleague found a HFTI flyer on Penn’s campus and passed it on to Minkus, who recognized that the initiative shared a mission with The Food Trust — to improve public access to healthy food.
Read more here.
From Flying Kite
On Thursday August 14, Lancaster Avenue between 35th and 39th streets will host Philadelphia's fifteenth Night Market -- an event that's about a lot more than just tasty food. The area will be blocked off to cars, trolleys will be diverted and an expected 15,000 people will gather to enjoy vittles, drink and music in the waning summer evening.