Lessons-learned-in-healthy-food-financing-projects

Lessons learned in healthy food financing projects

By Naomi Englar

More cities and states are creating financial incentives for food stores to open in areas that lack access to healthy, fresh food. And now a recent study gives guidance on implementing effective food retail programs to improve community health.

The study, authored by staff at The Food Trust and the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC), is published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. Click here to read the full article.

"Bringing communities fresh food retail access should be done thoughtfully and strategically to maximize the potential for both access to fresh healthy food and economic development," said Kate Parker, former assistant director of the Tulane PRC and an author on the study while at Tulane. "This paper, we hope, provides some insight, though we look forward to learning from other communities ways to accomplish these goals."

The Food Trust was instrumental in starting and administering Pennsylvania's Fresh Food Financing Initiative in 2004, which has led to start-up funding for 88 grocery retail projects, and the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, which has supported three food retail projects since its 2011 launch. Both require the new food stores to serve areas that lack access to fresh, healthy foods.

"Here at The Food Trust, many people have asked us 'How do I know if my food retail project qualifies as serving an area of need?'" said Julia Koprak, program manager at The Food Trust and an author on the study. "As program managers in the relatively new field of healthy food financing, we wanted to share the in-depth process used to assess need for healthy food retail in a community."

The paper sets up a framework for establishing criteria for applicants, specifically that the grocery projects serve lower-income communities, serve neighborhoods that lack healthy food retail, and align with community needs. In order to determine what areas lack healthy foods, incentive programs should rely on data on market areas, demographics, and local research, if applicable. In New Orleans, city officials used research of local food store offerings from the Tulane PRC.

In reviewing grocery projects, programs should also consider the mix of healthy food offerings, the grocery operator's reputation and experience, the public's level of support for the store, how many jobs will be created and whether local hiring will be emphasized.

The framework outlined in the paper has broader implications, too.
"We hope to inform those who are struggling to identify areas most in need of fresh food retail and also hope that the methods described in this paper will be useful for other types of place-based programs to improve health and revitalize communities," Koprak said.

(May 2014)

Topics:   obesity , nutrition , diet , food environment

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