Access to Fresh Food

The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative that Dwight Evans has spearheaded has become a model for the nation. FFFI attracted 206 applications from across Pennsylvania, with 88 grocery stores financed as of June 2010. In total, more than $73.2 million in loans and $12.1 million in grants were approved. The new and expanded grocery stores created more than 5,000 jobs.

FFFI was named one of the top government innovations in the country by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The success of FFFI made the initiative’s public-private structure a model for other cities and states committed to improving food access, including New Orleans, New York, New Jersey, California, Colorado and Illinois. First Lady Michelle Obama made the FFFI model a key pillar of her Let’s Move! Campaign to prevent childhood obesity and the Obama Administration created the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) to provide financing for developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores and farmers’ markets selling healthy food in underserved areas across the country. This demonstrates how local initiatives – including those that Dwight Evans originated here in Philadelphia – can both serve as national models and form the basis for federal programs.

Dwight Evans wants to expand those efforts in Congress. Here’s how he’ll do it:

Promote local food sources. Nationally, there is a movement toward consuming locally raised foods. More than eight in 10 consumers say they trust smaller-scale family farms to produce safe, nutritious food. These same folks are much less certain that they’re getting the good stuff from large-scale industrial operations, and willing to pay more for high quality, locally raised food. Examples of policies to promote local food sources include:

  • Farm-to-school programs – can include everything from involving students in gardening on school property to helping kids cook and serve local foods in school lunchrooms.
  • Local food procurement for schools, hospitals, jails, and other institutions. The federal government can incentivize local procurement by such anchor institutions.
  • Urban agriculture – We can ensure that zoning and other barriers to urban agriculture are erased to benefit existing and would-be farmers within city limits. Boston already conveys city-owned land to public-private partnerships for $1 a garden, and its Grassroots Program funds the creation and renovation of community gardens. Other steps it can take to add community gardens are to follow Seattle’s lead and set a goal of one community garden for every 2,500 households. To accomplish this, the City should spend money each year acquiring properties for conversion into community gardens.
  • Farmers Markets – identifying “food deserts” and working with local leaders and farmers to establish farmers markets in these locations.
  • Neighborhood Gardens – We can identify vacant lots or those with derelict properties that can be converted to neighborhood gardens.