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Impoverished Neighborhoods to Benefit from New Healthy Food Program

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Impoverished Neighborhoods to Benefit from New Healthy Food Program
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A lot of Ohioans lack reasonable access to healthy food, and it’s killing them, a report found.

Affordable and nutritional food is not evenly distributed throughout the state, leaving many neighborhoods with better access to fast food than fruits and vegetables. These dietary choices have been directly linked to obesity and its various health complications. Obesity can lead to heart disease — the US and Ohio’s leading cause of death — which took more than 26 thousand Ohio lives in 2010.

The study, done by The Food Trust, Finance Fund and the Ohio Regional Convergence Partnership, found that 30 percent of Ohio adults and nearly 31 percent of Ohio children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese. They help make up the two million Ohio residents, including over half a million children that live in lower-income communities underserved by supermarkets.

“Both the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have independently recommended that increasing the number of supermarkets in underserved areas would reduce the rate of childhood obesity in the United States,” the report states. “They also suggest that state and local governments should create incentive programs to attract healthy food retail to these neglected neighborhoods.”

Following the release of this report the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force was created and convened to create recommendations for increasing access to better food in Ohio’s undernourished urban and rural areas.

Monday saw the launch of one of these recommendations — a public-private partnership that would direct seed money toward developing a variety of food retail projects.

“The goal is to increase access to healthy foods in underserved communities,” said Caroline Harries, Associate Director for The Food Trust. “So the emphasis will be on projects with robust produce offerings.”

This could include “new supermarket developments, the expansion or renovation of existing grocery stores, and alternative models such as farmers’ markets, healthy corner store projects, co-ops, mobile markets and even food hubs that bolster the local food system and promote the sale of local and Ohio-grown foods.”

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The study used Columbus as an example, pointing out large areas with few supermarkets and many neighborhoods where none exist at all. Far South Columbus, North Central, Greater Hilltop and Franklinton neighborhoods would benefit most from the program.

Any kind of retailer or potential business owner can apply for a loan or grant, and those who are selected will receive start-up funds for their project.

The healthy side effect from this program launch would be the economic boost for neighborhoods that end up developing the stores. Residents of the area would have more job opportunities, and entrepreneurs would have the incentive to start something for their own community.

The exact amount of funding hasn’t been disclosed, but the grant will continue until this funding runs out.

“We do think this is just the tip of the iceberg and we hope that as the program proves and demonstrates the impact it can have, additional funding will be made available,” Harries said.

To access the the full report, CLICK HERE (PDF).

For more information, visit www.thefoodtrust.org.

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