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Obama Healthy Food Initiative Gets Food To Underserved Communities



PHILADELPHIA - The Obama Administration today released details of an
over $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which will bring
grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and
rural communities across America. The initiative was announced today in
Philadelphia by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Agriculture
Secretary Tom Vilsack. The two cabinet members appeared with First Lady
Michelle Obama, who recently launched the Let's Move! campaign to solve
the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. The initiative is
a partnership between the Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, and
Health and Human Services.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative will promote a range of
interventions that expand access to nutritious foods, including
developing and equipping grocery stores and other small businesses and
retailers selling healthy food in communities that currently lack these
options. Residents of these communities, which are sometimes called
"food deserts" and are often found in economically distressed areas, are
typically served by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that
offer little or no fresh produce. Lack of healthy, affordable food
options can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related
diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Through this new multi-year Healthy Food Financing Initiative and by
engaging with the private sector, the Obama Administration will work to
eliminate food deserts across the country within seven years. With the
first year of funding, the Administration's initiative will leverage
enough investments to begin expanding healthy foods options into as many
as one-fifth of the nation's food deserts and create thousands of jobs
in urban and rural communities across the nation.
To help community leaders identify the food deserts in their area, USDA
recently launched a Food Environment Atlas
( This new online tool allows for the
identification of counties where, for example, more than 40 percent of
the residents have low incomes and live more than one mile from a
grocery store. Nationwide, USDA estimates that 23.5 million people,
including 6.5 million children, live in low-income areas that are more
than a mile from a supermarket. Of the 23.5 million, 11.5 million are
low-income individuals in households with incomes at or below 200
percent of the poverty line. Of the 2.3 million people living in
low-income rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket,
1.1 million are low-income.
"Our effort to improve access to healthy and affordable food is a
critically important step toward First Lady Michelle Obama's goal to
solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, said
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.  "The Healthy Food Financing Initiative
will enhance access to healthy and affordable choices in struggling
urban and rural communities, create jobs and economic development, and
establish market opportunities for farmers and ranchers."

Effective local programs, such as those in Pennsylvania, have shown that
well-targeted financial and technical assistance can create viable
businesses that provide healthier options in communities that lack
access to healthy foods.  These investments not only improve food
options, but also create jobs, help revitalize distressed communities,
and, importantly, open up new markets for farmers to sell their
products, which can provide an economic boost to rural America. By
better connecting producers and consumers, we can build a stronger
connection between cities and rural parts of the country and help create
new opportunities for farmers and ranchers. This initiative is part of a
broader Obama Administration commitment to promoting economic recovery,
including support for small businesses and job creation. It is also part
of the Administration's efforts to revitalize neighborhoods and
communities by employing place-based approaches-strategies that target
the prosperity, equity, sustainability and livability of places.
"It's been a tough year for America, but for our middle class and
distressed communities it's been a tough decade," said Secretary
Geithner. "We're here to make sure that in America, where a child grows
up doesn't determine whether they have access to a
better-healthier-future. By introducing powerful incentives for private
investors to take a chance on projects - like a new, healthier grocery
store - we can make that difference for America's children, while
creating new jobs and services in their communities."
Through the joint initiative, which was included in the President's
Budget for 2011, Treasury, USDA, and HHS would make available more than
$400 million in financial and technical assistance to community
development financial institutions, other nonprofits, and businesses
with sound strategies for addressing the healthy food needs of
communities. The initiative will make available a mix of federal tax
credits, below-market rate loans, loan guarantees, and grants to attract
private sector capital that will more than double the total investment.
Federal funds will support projects ranging from the construction or
expansion of a grocery store to smaller-scale interventions such as
placing refrigerated units stocked with fresh produce in convenience
"Encouraging people to choose fresh, nutritious food is important," said
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  "But to achieve
that goal that kind of food must be available, and in far too many parts
of our country -- both urban and rural communities -- that's not the
case.  This collaborative initiative is a creative way to help solve
that problem, while at the same time working to strengthen the economy
of low-income communities through business development and job
Each of the three agencies brings a particular expertise and set of
resources to the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. Specifically:

* The Treasury Department will support private sector financing of
healthy foods options in distressed urban and rural communities. Through
the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) and financial assistance to
Treasury-certified community development financial institutions (CDFIs),
Treasury has a proven track record in expanding access to nutritious
foods by catalyzing private sector investment. The Healthy Foods
Financing Initiative builds on that track record, with $250 million in
authority for the NMTC and $25 million for financial assistance to CDFIs
devoted to helping finance healthy food options. Treasury's CDFI Fund
has a long history of supporting these kinds of investments, including:
providing funding for the landmark Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing
Initiative that has brought 68 grocery stores to underserved
communities; the Roberts Fresh Market, a full-service supermarket in an
underserved area of New Orleans that was devastated by Hurricane
Katrina; and a new Super Giant in Washington, D.C., the only grocery
store in the Anacostia neighborhood and now one of Giant's most
successful stores.

* The Department of Agriculture specializes in improving access to
healthy foods through nutrition assistance programs, creating business
opportunities for America's farmers, and promoting economic development
in rural areas. USDA's proposed funding level of $50 million will
support more than $150 million in public and private investments in the
form of loans, grants, promotion, and other programs that can provide
financial and technical assistance to enhance access to healthy foods in
under-served communities, expand demand and retail outlets for farm
products, and increase the availability of locally and regionally
produced foods. USDA has a solid track record of supporting successful
farmers markets, and has also invested in grocery stores and creating
agricultural supply chains for them, such as in the People's Grocery
project in Oakland, CA.

* The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) specializes in
community-based efforts to improve the economic and physical health of
people in distressed areas. HHS will dedicate up to $20 million in
Community Economic Development program funds to the Healthy Food
Financing Initiative. Through the CED program, HHS will award
competitive grants to Community Development Corporations to support
projects that finance grocery stores, farmers markets, and other sources
of fresh nutritious food. These projects will serve the dual purposes of
facilitating access to healthy food options while creating job and
business development opportunities in low-income communities,
particularly since grocery stores often serve as anchor institutions in
commercial centers. HHS has supported fresh food projects in the past,
such as the Plaza del Valle in Panorama City, CA.


Treasury Public Affairs, (202) 622-2960
USDA Office of Communications, (202) 720-4623
HHS/ACF Press Office, (202) 401-9215

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