An often-ignored contributor to poor health is lack of access to good quality, affordable healthy food. Residents in low-income communities have limited options for healthy eating and often resort to buying unhealthy foods at corner stores or fast food outlets. Certainly, people choose what they eat but their choices are based on availability.
Across the nation, communities are addressing this issue, often by partnering food retailers with residents and policymakers. The PolicyLink report, Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities through Food Retailing, examines how low-income communities are accessing healthy, affordable, good quality food - right in their neighborhoods.
The report illustrates how policymakers, business leaders, community organizations, and foundations have joined together to identify ways to create innovative community-driven solutions to the food access problem across the country. The report shows how vacant land, abandoned properties, and existing smaller sites are being adapted for grocery store developments in poor communities and spurring economic development; small stores are stocking healthier options, promoting local small business development, and even turning "problem" locations into community assets; farmers' markets are sustaining small farms while providing fresh, local food, opportunities for small business development, as well as a social space. It also shows how community organizations are partnering in-sometimes even owning and operating-grocery store development, which helps build the community's economic capital and creates a more cohesive community environment.
Healthy Food, Healthy Communities describes examples of successful programs in Baltimore, Boston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Newark, New York City, Providence, St. Louis, Washington, DC, and throughout California and Pennsylvania, and showcases the important role of state and local governments in increasing access to healthy food in low-income communities.
Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities through Food Retailing was funded by a grant from The California Endowment (TCE). This report builds on earlier work about the effects of community factors on health that was developed by PolicyLink in partnership with TCE, Reducing Health Disparities Through a Focus on Communities.
Rebecca Flournoy and Sarah Treuhaft, who authored Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing, are program associates at PolicyLink. Flournoy leads a project designed to improve access to grocery stores and other healthy food retail options in underserved communities, and advises coalitions on advocacy strategy for policies that will improve community conditions and residents' health. Treuhaft researches and writes on a variety of equitable development topics including the use of information technology tools for community building, regional equity strategies, economic development, and healthy neighborhood environments. She also provides data and mapping analysis for PolicyLink projects.