Women's Health Magazine
According to the USDA, an estimated total of 13.6 million Americans live in areas that are considered food deserts, and a recent study that examined social media posts about food suggests that a person’s proximity to a healthy food store does impact the healthiness of their meals—the researchers found that only 33 percent of posts from people in food deserts mention fruits and vegetables, compared with 48 percent of posts from people in non-food deserts.
“The challenges for families that lack access to healthy food are vast,” Gabriella Mora, a Senior Associate in Policy and Government Affairs at The Food Trust, tells WomensHealthMag.com. “Imagine a scenario where a single, working mom with young children and no car is having to take two buses and a train and travel an hour each way just to get to the closest grocery store. That’s actually a pretty common scenario, and that inequity creates a lot of barriers to making healthy food choices, since it’s likely much simpler to get to something that’s closer by, but an unhealthy food choice.”
“For a lot of kids,” she adds, “it’s way easier to get a grape soda than a handful of grapes, or an orange soda than an actual orange.”
The Food Trust, which was founded in Philadelphia in 1992, specializes in bringing healthy food access to underserved populations throughout the country. Mora works as a policy advocate for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which provides financial incentives for businesses to open in healthy food stores in underserved areas, and is a key component of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, which aims to lower childhood obesity rates.
Read more here.
Food drives are big during the winter months: Around the holidays, it has become a tradition to pitch in and help those in need. While these efforts are certainly important and impactful, food insecurity doesn’t go away come January.
More than 900,000 New Jersey residents rely on food banks to feed their families, and it’s estimated that nearly 10 percent of the state’s population lives in areas that lack ready access to stores that sell healthy, affordable foods.
The impact of hunger is exacerbated in low-income communities by the lack of access to stores that provide good-quality, healthy food like fresh produce. Residents living in these areas are forced to buy what’s available, not necessarily what’s healthy, negatively impacting their health and well-being.
Numerous studies show that obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases are disproportionately higher in neighborhoods where residents lack access to nutritious foods. And these areas are also cut off from the economic benefits that accompany anchor supermarkets: steady jobs, increased property values and additional retail investment.
While the need for more supermarkets in New Jersey is clear, New Jersey also has an estimated 5,600 corner stores and bodegas around the state, making small retailers an efficient and cost-effective infrastructure to increase fresh, nutritious food options.
The New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative — a joint partnership of The Food Trust, American Heart Association and the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance — is beginning to make headway, using these existing stores to improve access to healthy food by working with corner-store owners to help them profitably stock, market and sell nutritious, affordable food items to their customers.
Through the initiative, community partners provide retailers the tools they need to dedicate more shelf space to fresh foods and place signs and labels around the store that help their customers recognize healthier choices. The program is helping turn these stores into greater community resources, yielding impressive results in both improving healthy food access and generating new local jobs.
Legislation is pending in Trenton — the Healthy Small Food Retailer Act (A4505/S3043) — that would create a state fund enabling the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store program to be expanded statewide. I encourage the Legislature and governor to act swiftly on this legislation.
All New Jerseyans deserve access to nutritious foods in their communities during the holidays and all throughout the year.
John Weidman is deputy executive director of The Food Trust.
The New York Times
Taped on the glass refrigerator doors were signs warning customers about the calories contained in the products inside. “Did you know it takes 65 minutes of dancing to work off a bottle of soda?” one said. The signs are part of the healthy corner store initiative sponsored by the Food Trust, a local nonprofit that works to promote nutritious food and coordinates closely with the city. (“Choose water!” urged another, handwritten sign.)
Many urban residents do their shopping in corner stores, and the Food Trust certifies stores, helping them find and sell healthier foods.
“We don’t do much with campaigns to decrease soda,” said John Weidman, the organization’s deputy executive director. “These guys have such small profit margins that you have to couch everything in terms of, ‘This will help your bottom line.’ ” In other words, the organization doesn’t urge stores to stop selling soda. Instead, he said, the goal is to nudge customers toward healthier options, like water and low-fat milk. “It’s mostly about getting them to try healthier alternatives,” he said.
Almost a quarter million people are eating healthier, thanks to one innovative idea. (via NationSwell)
The Food Trust of Philadelphia, one of the most ambitious programs of its kind in one of America’s poorest and most unhealthy big cities, began in a public housing development in South Philly, with volunteers piling mounds of fruits and veggies on one long table outside the project each week. Since 1992, they’ve taken their work beyond that first farmer’s market, improving access to healthy food and nutritional information for nearly 220,000 residents in poor neighborhoods — making Philadelphia one of the first cities to meet the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” challenge to eliminate food deserts entirely by 2017.
“We started to see that farmer’s markets provide seasonal access to fresh fruits and vegetables, not a long-term solution — or the only solution. They really only can open in summer on the East Coast. We realized it was really important to look at the longer term and more comprehensive approaches to food access,” says Candace Young, spokesperson for the nonprofit. Around 2004, “the first thing we did was we mapped out areas of the city that had low access to supermarkets and high-diet related deaths — the pockets of the city that needed better access. We sent that report to policy makers and practitioners, the health community and its advocates, the food retail community. What was built from there was this multi-million dollar public-private initiative to build new or even just renovate supermarkets around the whole state.”
Read more here.
Brian Lang, director of The Food Trust's National Campaign for Healthy Food Access, recently had the opportunity to join a roundtable discussion with Mari Gallagher (Mari Gallagher Research & Consulting Group) and Helen Lee (MDRC) on the connection between healthy food access and health for The Wall Street Journal. Says Lang:
"For folks without a lot of time or money, it's easier to find a grape soda than a bunch of grapes. The 2 miles that a higher-income suburbanite might travel to access healthy food isn't the same as the 2 miles that a lower-income resident might travel."
Read more here.
Philly Food Bucks is a healthy food incentive program developed and launched in 2010 to increase the purchasing power of SNAP customers at farmers' markets. For every $5 that SNAP customers spend using their benefits at a participating market site, they receive a $2 coupon for fresh fruits and vegetables. The program is available to all SNAP recipients, and in 2014, Philly Food Bucks coupons could be redeemed at 29 sites that sell local fruits and vegetables across Philadelphia. Through the program, The Food Trust seeks to increase SNAP sales at farmers' markets, increase the affordability of produce to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and bolster the sales of local farmers.
Read more here.
...when millions of Americas rely on convenience stores as their primary grocery, offering more nutritious options becomes a public health imperative.
Several programs around the country are trying to do just that -- putting up the cash so convenience store owners can remodel, showcasing healthy food up front and relegating the sodas and Ding Dongs to the back.
"Right when you come in the door we've got veggies, fruits, whole grain cereals," said Clara Olivares, owner of Olivares Food Market near downtown Philadelphia. "We wanted to offer more choices to our customers, and for the community to get healthier."
Refurbishing stores: In 2012, Olivares signed up for a program run by The Food Trust, a regional advocacy group that gets funding from a variety of public and private sources. The Food Trust provided money and expertise, sprucing up her store with a new refrigerated display case, awning, vegetable kiosk, as well as signs throughout directing customers to the healthy eats.
The Trust provides training on how to handle fresh produce -- such as not storing the bananas next to the apples, as apples give off ethylene, which rots the bananas. There's tricks on how to sell produce, like never letting just a few pieces of fruit linger at the bottom of a big box, as well as training with ordering and book keeping.
Since partnering with Philadelphia's health department in 2010, the Trust has done varying degrees of renovations on over 200 stores. A full-on conversion like Olivares' cost about $60,000.
The Layman Award was established by the Philadelphia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance to honor an individual or group who has provided significant contributions to the fields of Health Education and Physical Education who are not members of the profession.
Learn more about The Food Trust's HYPE program here
Young Leaders for a Healthier Generation
GSK and The Philadelphia Foundation announced the award of a three-year, $5 million charitable grant to Get HYPE Philly!, a collective of 10 nonprofits headed by The Food Trust. Working together, the nonprofits will focus on enabling Philadelphia teens to eat healthy, exercise and build healthier communities. The grant is from a fund established by GSK in 2011 to benefit young people in the City of Philadelphia, and is administered by The Philadelphia Foundation.
For more information visit: gethypephilly.org
Celebrating Progress, Accelerating Change
Helping all children grow up at a healthy weight is an integral part of building a Culture of Health in every community across the United States. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will commit $500 million over the next 10 years to expand efforts to ensure that all children in the United States—no matter who they are or where they live―can grow up at a healthy weight. Together we have been able to put childhood obesity on the map as an urgent, national priority. Now there are signs we’re turning the tides on childhood obesity rates in younger children. These signs of progress are happening in schools and communities across the nation.
Video features President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, former Let's Move Executive Director Sam Kass, Executive Director of The Food Trust Yael Lehmann, and others.
Inside Track continues a series of interviews with members of the Strategic Advisory Committee of Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Heart Association, exploring their various contributions to the fight against childhood obesity.
PreventObesity.net Leader Dwayne Wharton was born and raised in Philadelphia and grew up in a community that was, as he recalls, “uneven.”
Read more here.
Newsworks The Pulse
On a Saturday this summer, staff from The Food Trust and cookbook author Leanne Brown led a tour of the market in Philadelphia's Clark Park.
The duo acted as tag-team pitchmen hawking the wonders of grilled asparagus and the benefits of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Brown's cookbook "Good and Cheap" is for people who live on a food stamp budget and The Food Trust is on a mission to get nutritious food to more city people.
Listen to the segment here.
Dwayne Wharton, Director of External Affairs at The Food Trust, also serves as the President of Seybert Foundation, a 100-year-old philanthropic foundation that makes grants in the amount of $300,000 per year to benefit disadvantaged youth in Philadelphia. As President, he has led a tremendous effort in recruitment of board members from ethnic and racial minority backgrounds.
One nominee said, “Dwayne Wharton is a shining example of a man who grew up in Philadelphia and who now gives back to the community. He is open-minded and visionary, taking people for "who they are" and not stereotyping them, and he has a great talent for detecting leadership ability in others, especially in people of color or from minority populations, and works to promote those leaders in ways that ultimately benefit not just the individuals but their community.”
Finally, a little good news concerning the nation’s rising obesity rates: rates among children in some cities and states are starting to drop.
What’s behind the success? Jim Marks, senior vice president and director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group says there is a pattern among the cities with the most significant declines. Most are implementing multiple, comprehensive programs that target both schools and communities by upping the availability of healthier foods and encouraging more physical activity and educational opportunities.
That includes tapping into as many different venues where people eat and buy food as possible. For instance, since 1992 Philadelphia has worked with The Food Trust to help corner stores fill their shelves with fresher foods, bring better food to under-served markets, connect schools and farms and require acceptance of food stamps at farmer’s markets.
Corner stores — often thought of as a source of unhealthy foods — can be key partners in the effort to improve access to healthy, affordable foods. Evaluation by The Food Trust and Econsult Corporation has shown that the corner stores in Philadelphia that have introduced healthier produce to store shelves have resulted in healthier choices, healthier businesses and healthier communities.
Blog post from Rhea May, Fairmount Ventures
The Food Trust has worked tirelessly over the past twenty years to ensure access to healthy and affordable food for everyone. In Philadelphia, where food deserts are depressingly common and even part of our city was named the second hungriest district in the nation in 2010, assuring access to this basic human necessity can be grim work indeed. But rather than merely being a mouthpiece to these depressing statistics or shaming the public into taking action against this atrocity, The Food Trust takes a different approach to engaging the public. As anyone who’s been to Night Market can attest, they make food a celebration – and they make sure that everyone’s in on the party.
With high hopes of more to come, Mayor Annise Parker, Council Members Stephen Costello and Dwight Boykins, the Houston Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and others broke ground on the first project to target a Houston food desert. With financial assistance from the city, Pyburn’s owner John Vuong is building a first-class grocery store to serve South Union and surrounding neighborhoods. The store is scheduled to open the first quarter of 2015.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to purchase healthy food for their family,” said Yael Lehmann, Executive Director of The Food Trust. “We applaud this initiative by the City of Houston to increase access to grocery stores in underserved areas,” Lehmann said.
The City is providing a performance-based loan of $1.7 million for predevelopment, land acquisition, construction and equipment. The total project cost is estimated to be $3.7 million. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds awarded to the Houston Redevelopment Authority for economic development projects will be used for the project. Funding is available for additional projects and HRA will work with potential partners on a case-by-case basis to determine eligibility for building or revitalizing grocery stores in food desert areas.