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Replenishing our food deserts: in tightly packed urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas, fresh and healthy food is unavailable to many Americans. Lawmakers hope to remedy that.

Whether you live in an urban or rural community, access to fresh produce and meat is a basic need," says Pennsylvania Representative Dwight Evans
    Dwight Michael Evans (born November 3, 1951 in Santa Monica, California), nicknamed "Dewey," is a former right fielder and right-handed batter who played for the Boston Red Sox (1972-90) and Baltimore Orioles (1991).
     in sizing up an issue that is finding its way on to the agendas of America's state legislatures.

    As traditional food stores have disappeared over the last 40 years, millions of Americans find themselves living in so-called "food deserts"--places that, compared to more prosperous communities, are underserved by affordable, high quality retail food outlets. And like a host of problems that affect a community's economic well-being and the health of its residents, legislatures have begun searching for the most appropriate policy remedies.

    Although the problem may be universal, the solutions are not. "People who live in areas where not everyone owns a car or must travel long distances to reach a good food store, are keenly aware of the need for accessible and affordable food markets," Evans says. But trying to "re-store" poor urban neighborhoods or sparsely populated pop·u·late  
    tr.v. pop·u·lat·ed, pop·u·lat·ing, pop·u·lates
    1. To supply with inhabitants, as by colonization; people.

     rural counties requires significantly different approaches.

    Private advocacy organizations have joined forces with businesses and lawmakers to find creative solutions.

    Solutions often begin with those closest to the problems. That was the case in Philadelphia where the nonprofit organization Nonprofit Organization

    An association that is given tax-free status. Donations to a non-profit organization are often tax deductible as well.

    Examples of non-profit organizations are charities, hospitals and schools.
    , The Food Trust, conducted a study in 2002 that found that the city's low-income neighborhoods needed at least 70 more supermarkets. Being so dramatically underserved had two major consequences. The first was that diet-related illnesses were significantly higher in low-income communities. This was due in part to the residents' difficulty in traveling to affordable stores that stocked quality fruits and vegetables. The second impact was economic. Lower income residents' food purchasing dollars were "traveling" or "leaking" to other areas rather than staying in neighborhoods that desperately needed the economic activity.

    "At first, the Food Trust was more interested in the health issues," says the organization's communication director, David Adler. "But we began to see the lack of supermarkets as an economic development issue that expanded our idea of what constituted a healthy community."

    Indeed, evidence from community redevelopment efforts over the last 10 years does suggest that supermarkets help communities that have been hurt by the loss of businesses, a high concentration of poor households, and a decline in public services Public services is a term usually used to mean services provided by government to its citizens, either directly (through the public sector) or by financing private provision of services. . Supermarkets create jobs and bring foot traffic and lighting to previously dormant commercial areas, making them safer. Often they anchor downtown revitalization efforts.

    A study by The Reinvestment Reinvestment

    Using dividends, interest and capital gains earned in an investment or mutual fund to purchase additional shares or units, rather than receiving the distributions in cash.

    1. In terms of stocks, it is the reinvestment of dividends to purchase additional shares.
     Fund, a development finance corporation playing a major management role in Pennsylvania's supermarket restoration efforts, found that every $1 spent on supermarket construction and operation generates $1.50 in additional economic activity. Supermarkets also give an immediate boost to property values of between 4 percent and 7 percent.

    When the Food Trust first brought its report to the attention of Philadelphia city government, it caught the eye of Representative Evans. As co-chair of the Governor's Task Force on Working Families, he broached the idea of a publicly supported supermarket financing initiative. The Pennsylvania legislature created the Fresh Food Financing Initiative in 2004.

    "The initiative is an innovative and creative use of public and private funding that is a sterling example of sound public policy," Evans says. "It is a partnership that is supported by The Reinvestment Fund, The Food Trust and the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition." At this stage, the state has committed $30 million that The Reinvestment Fund is using to leverage other public and private funds to make loans for supermarket development across the state of Pennsylvania.

    The early results have been impressive: The Fresh Food Financing Initiative has committed resources to 28 projects that so far have produced more than a million square feet of retail food space and 2,500 new jobs.

    The justification for this kind of public investment goes back to the initial cause of the problem: the inability of conventional financial institutions to finance new or existing supermarkets that wish to operate in economically distressed communities.

    "I don't think the industry has abandoned areas so much as the areas were no longer profitable enough for them," Evans says.

    As the Hartford Food System, a Connecticut nonprofit organization working on food access issues, said in a 2006 report, "Like any other industry, supermarkets are in business to make money. Chains usually build stores in places where the profit-making potential is the greatest. Any effort to change this must tip the economic variables sufficiently to bring a supermarket into an area where it might not otherwise have been built."


    It's hard for most of us to imagine driving miles to buy our groceries. But that is often the case in many parts of rural America. In Mora IN MORA. In default. Vide mora, in.  County, N.M., with a population of 5,000 people spread over 2,000 square miles, the closest major supermarket is 35 miles over winding mountain roads.

    Mora MORA, In civil law. This term, in mora, is used to denote that a party to a contract, who is obliged to do anything, has neglected to perform it, and is in default. Story on Bailm. Sec. 123, 259; Jones on Bailm. 70; Poth. Pret a Usage, c. 2, Sec. 2, art. 2, n.  County is not alone. A 2007 report by the Rural Sociological Society identified 803 "low-access" rural counties where 50 percent or more of the residents live at least 10 miles from a supermarket. More than half of these counties were also defined as "food deserts" which means that all of their residents lived more than 10 miles from the nearest supermarket.

    New Mexico New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S).  Representative Brian Moore Brian Moore may be:
    • Brian Moore (novelist) (1921-1999)
    • Brian Moore (commentator) (1932-2001)
    • Brian Moore (rugby player) (born 1962)
    • Brian Moore (politician), a candidate for Florida's 2006 Senate election
     understands both the cause and impact of rural food deserts. As the only member of the Legislature who owns and operates a supermarket, he knows how his constituents struggle to get to affordable food stores and how difficult it is to make a profit in rural communities. "Many small towns in northeast New Mexico (his district borders Texas and Oklahoma) can't get fresh fruits and vegetables," M oore says.

    Moore has owned his grocery store in Clayton, N.M., for 20 years. As a town of 2,500 people that also draws tourist traffic from the nearby state highway, Clayton has a sufficient customer base to support his operation. That's not the case, however, in the town of Logan, also in Moore's district. With only 1,100 residents, it can barely support one convenience store that carries very little flesh produce and some packaged meat.

    "Store start-up costs are high, and equipment such as coolers for produce is expensive," Moore says. "Many of these stores are also too small to be serviced by the region's only independent food wholesaler, Affiliated Foods in Amarillo, Texas “Amarillo” redirects here. For other uses, see Amarillo (disambiguation).
    Amarillo is the 14th-largest city in the U.S. state of Texas and the seat of Potter County.
    . If a store doesn't have a loading dock, for instance, it's just too costly for a semi-truck to deliver to them."

    After New Mexico's Food and Agriculture Policy Council delivered a report to the Legislature in 2006 that revealed the extent of the state's rural "food gap," lawmakers passed a joint memorial to establish a food gap task force. Representative Manuel Herrera says the task force will look for ways to improve access to healthy and affordable foods. The policy council's director, Pam Roy, says the task force will "bring together public and private interests who have a stake in the problem and the expertise to develop workable solutions."

    What those solutions might be is too early to say (the task force's recommendations will be presented at the 2008 legislative session). Herrera doesn't envision anything as ambitious as Pennsylvania's Fresh Food Financing Initiative. But along with his colleague Moore, he foresees a state-financed revolving loan fund A Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) is a source of money from which loans are made for small business development projects. A loan is made to one person or business at a time and, as repayments are made, funds become available for new loans to other businesses.  that helps cash-strapped store owners in rural areas purchase produce coolers or even loading docks to take advantage of Affiliated Foods wide product selection and lower prices.


    The hard work of committed advocates like the Food Trust, legislators like Dwight Evans, and professional business developers like The Reinvestment Fund is bearing fruit in North Philadelphia. In this previously underserved community, the Fresh Food Financing Initiative is helping redevelop re·de·vel·op  
    v. re·de·vel·oped, re·de·vel·op·ing, re·de·vel·ops
    1. To develop (something) again.

     the nation's oldest African-American-owned shopping center shopping center, a concentration of retail, service, and entertainment enterprises designed to serve the surrounding region. The modern shopping center differs from its antecedents—bazaars and marketplaces—in that the shops are usually amalgamated into . Built in 1968 by civil rights leader Reverend Leon Sullivan Reverend Dr. Leon Howard Sullivan (October 16, 1922 - April 24, 2001) was a Baptist minister, a civil rights leader and social activist focusing on the creation of job training opportunities for African-Americans, a longtime General Motors Board Member, and an anti-Apartheid , Progress Plaza had fallen into disrepair since losing its supermarket in 1998. With a $250,000 grant and $2.3 million in loans from the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, Progress Plaza has launched a major redevelopment effort that will be anchored by a new, full-service Fresh Grocer that will provide 240 jobs. Although Evans acknowledged that the original mission of this investment was to make affordable groceries available to the neighborhood, "the bonus is that it has cleaned up that neighborhood and added a sense of pride and accomplishment to the people who live and work there."

    The lessons learned so far suggest that when responsible public investment meets sound business practices, communities prosper, livelihoods are created, and healthy food becomes available to all.


    A full-line, modern supermarket may not always be the answer to a food desert. When Assemblyman as·sem·bly·man  
    A man who is a member of a legislative assembly.


    pl -men a member of a legislative assembly

    Noun 1.
     Mark Leno Mark Leno ( born 24 September 1951, Milwaukee, Wisconsin ) is a United States politician, representing California's 13th Assembly district, which consists of the eastern portion of San Francisco.  visited Vince's Third Street Produce Store in San Francisco's Bay View neighborhood for fresh produce, he couldn't help but notice that the low-income residents of Bay View did not seem to be sharing in the bounty of California's famous fruits and vegetables. Obesity and obesity-related diseases cost the Golden State some $20 billion a year, and Leno was concerned that "the current health-care system could be overwhelmed," unless proactive measures In antiterrorism, measures taken in the preventive stage of antiterrorism designed to harden targets and detect actions before they occur.  were taken. Leno believes that affordability and access are the two main hurdles to a good diet for many in food deserts, with affordability the key roadblock in this case.

    The California Food Policy Advocates ( had conducted an investigation of the role that small neighborhood stores play in meeting the needs of low-income communities. What they found wasn't surprising. Small urban stores--corner stores, mom 'n' pops, bodegas--were plentiful, but mostly sold a wide selection of unhealthy food unhealthy food Any food that is not regarded as being conducive to maintaining health; UFs include fats, in particular of animal origin, 'fast' foods–low in fiber and vitamins; 'junk food'–eg, potato and corn chips, pretzels, crackers–high in salt . To that end, Leno, with the assistance of the California Food Policy Advocates, introduced a bill to create the Healthy Food Purchase Pilot Program in 2006. The bill passed and the pilot program will eventually be active in seven diverse counties. The program addresses the access problem by building on what is already present in communities, by providing money for produce coolers for corner stores and by providing store operators with training and technical assistance. To tackle the affordability issue, the program will offer financial incentives to food stamp food stamp
    A stamp or coupon, issued by the government to persons with low incomes, that can be redeemed for food at stores.

    Noun 1.
     recipients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

    In New York New York, state, United States
    New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
    , Assemblyman Felix Ortiz Felix W. Ortiz is currently representing New York's 51st Assembly District, originally elected in November 1994.

    In 2000, Assemblyman Ortiz achieved passage of the nation’s first law to ban the use of hand held cell phones while driving a motor vehicle.
     was concerned that the lack of healthy, affordable food stores in his Brooklyn district was contributing to the soaring obesity and diabetes rates among his constituents. Ortiz introduced legislation that gave New York farmers a personal property tax abatement on farm equipment if they sold at farmers' markets It has been suggested that this article be split into multiple articles.  in underserved communities. Now, farmers are parking their pick-up trucks in Brooklyn's Red Hook Red Hook can refer to:
    • Red Hook, Brooklyn, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, USA
    • Red Hook, New York, a town in Dutchess county in the State of New York, USA
    • Red Hook (village), New York, a village in the Town of Red Hook, New York, USA
     and Sunset Park Sunset Park is the name for several parks including:
    • Sunset Park, Las Vegas
    • Sunset Park, Tennessee
    Other uses include:
    • Sunset Park, Brooklyn a neighborhood and namesake park in Brooklyn
    • Sunset Park, Georgia
    • Sunset Park (film) from 1996
     neighborhoods selling tomatoes, collards collards: see kale.  and cilantro. "Underserved communities like mine didn't have access to the same quality of groceries as higher-end communities," Ortiz says. "Now things are moving in the right direction."

    The Connecticut legislature is considering how it can use the personal property tax to stimulate the development of supermarkets. Because most of the Nutmeg State's inner-city areas lack high quality food stores, Representative Christopher Stone Major Christopher Reynolds Stone, D.S.O., M.C. (19 September 1882- 22 May 1965) was the first disc jockey in the United Kingdom.

    He was educated at Eton College and served in the Royal Fusiliers.
     introduced a bill that would allow municipalities to abate abate v. to do away with a problem, such as a public or private nuisance or some structure built contrary to public policy. This can include dikes which illegally direct water onto a neighbors property, high volume noise from a rock band or a factory, an improvement  up to 100 percent of a supermarket's personal property tax for its machinery, equipment and furnishings. Abating property taxes helps supermarkets in poor neighborhoods where operating expenses Operating expenses

    The amount paid for asset maintenance or the cost of doing business, excluding depreciation. Earnings are distributed after operating expenses are deducted.
     are higher than they are in the suburbs. The bill passed Stone's General Law Committee, but was withdrawn this year in order to be reworked and resubmitted in 2008.













    Mark Winne is a free-lance writer living in Santa Fe Santa Fe, city, Argentina
    Santa Fe, city (1991 pop. 341,000), capital of Santa Fe prov., NE Argentina, a river port near the Paraná, with which it is connected by canal.
    , N.M. He can be reached by email at For more information on food deserts, visit health/publichealth/foodaccess/groceryretailsitevisit.htm or email
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    Author:Winne, Mark
    Publication:State Legislatures
    Date:Sep 1, 2007
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