Learn About Food Access

For more than 40 years, residents of North Philadelphia's East Germantown neighborhood had no place to buy healthy, affordable food. The nearest grocery store was a 20-minute bus ride away. The neighborhood corner stores were filled with unhealthy, and often expensive, options. Fast-food wrappers littered the streets.

And residents' health suffered.

Nationally, almost one out of every six children between ages 2 and 19 is obese, a number that has tripled in the years since a grocery store last served the East Germantown community. In East Germantown, almost one out of every two children is overweight or obese. The number of people suffering from other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, is also high.

The story of this Philadelphia neighborhood is not unique. It is the story of the thousands of communities, both urban and rural, all across the country that lack access to healthy, affordable food. And it is the story of the nearly 30 million Americans, the United States Department of Agriculture reports, live more than a mile from the nearest grocery store.

Research has shown that you are where you eat, that the neighborhood you live in has a profound impact on the food choices you make. In partnership with PolicyLink, The Food Trust published Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters: A Review of the Research, a new report that provides an up-to-date review of the research. Three years after The Grocery Gap: Who Has Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters , the large volume of new research demonstrates that improving healthy food access in low-income communities and communities of color continues to be an urgent need.

Research also demonstrates the economy of lower-income communities is positively influenced by improved food access. For example, the development or presence of a grocery store can create jobs, stimulate investment in the neighborhood and anchor complementary retail.

For more than 20 years, The Food Trust has worked with partners to improve food access throughout neighborhoods in Philadelphia and across the country. The Food Trust's comprehensive approach includes improving food environments and teaching nutrition education in schools, working with corner store owners to increase healthy offerings and helping customers make healthier choices, managing farmers' markets in communities that lack access to affordable produce and encouraging other fresh food retail development in underserved communities.

The success of this approach is evident in East Germantown, where the innovative Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative supported new fresh food retail development.

When the new 50,000-square-foot Fresh Grocer supermarket opened its doors in East Germantown it ended the neighborhood’s 40-year fresh produce drought. “I’m in the store all the time,” said Joan Hill who grew up in the neighborhood and lives three minutes from the new supermarket. “The impact on the neighborhood has been invaluable. We now have access to fresh vegetables and fruits. That was sorely lacking in this neighborhood for a very long time.”

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Everyone Deserves Access

Nearly 30 million Americans lack access to healthy, affordable food. See their stories and their efforts to improve food access in communities from New York to New Orleans.