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Statements on New USDA Food Desert Study

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The USDA released a much-anticipated study of food deserts today. The full study can be found here. Below are statements from PolicyLink and The Food Trust about the study.

Statement from PolicyLink President Judith Bell

“The new USDA food desert report provides yet another confirmation that access to healthy food is a significant problem for millions of Americans. The report shows that about one in every 13 Americans – 23.5 million people — live in low-income communities that are more than a mile from the nearest large grocery store.

As more than 70 studies have shown during the past decade, the lack of access to healthy food is a real challenge in many low-income urban communities, rural communities, and communities of color. This is a public health issue, plain and simple. As we demonstrated in the 2008 report, Designed for Disease: The Link Between Local Food Environments and Obesity and Diabetes, people living in neighborhoods crowded with fast-food and convenience stores but relatively few grocery or produce outlets have a significantly higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes. (The report was prepared by PolicyLink in partnership with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy).  Other studies demonstrate that in addition to providing access to healthy foods, supermarkets and large grocery stores are important neighborhood economic engines, bringing jobs and revitalization.

This USDA report adds to the growing body of research on the ways that where you live affects your health. Now is the time to implement proven, impactful policies to address America’s food desert crisis.”

Statement from John Weidman, Deputy Executive Director, The Food Trust

“Improving access to grocery stores in both urban and rural communities must be part of our national strategy to improve children’s health and prevent obesity and diabetes.  The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative has demonstrated that supermarkets can thrive in food deserts and offers a strong model for solving this problem nationally.   Expanding this program is one of the Top Ten recommendations of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission To Build a Healthier America.”

Did you miss these? (January 10,2009)

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A recap of this week’s equity news

Nutrition grant will refresh local ‘food deserts’,” - The Courier-Journal
Grant to boost nutrition at two corner stores

They’re called “food deserts” — poor, urban neighborhoods where residents lack cars to drive to distant supermarkets, prompting many to rely on nearby fast food or convenience-store fare.

Now, after months of delays, a project is about to bring healthful food to two such “deserts” in Louisville by helping two corner stores in disadvantaged neighborhoods begin selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

How Obama can partner with philanthropy,” - San Francisco Chronicle
With violence in the Mideast, the spreading economic crisis, the tragedy in Mumbai and the risk of state failure in troubled regions, President-elect Barack Obama has had a glimpse of the in-box that awaits him. Already on his checklist had been the problems of new poverty at home; uneven access to health care and quality education; the climate crisis; and the need for post-war reconciliation and reconstruction abroad.

Yet the president-elect was quick to acknowledge on election night that, “government can’t solve every problem.” He will need to tap all available sources of innovation, including from the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. In the case of the social sector, its most important asset may be its independence, not only from governments but from the snap judgments of markets or electoral politics, influenced by the 24-hour news cycle. In a world of complex problems, the social sector - philanthropy and those it supports - may be the only sector able to take risks, withstand criticism and make long-term investments in the public interest.

A Pitch for Mass Transit,” - New York Times

Unlike President Bush, Barack Obama is going to enter office with a clear appreciation of the urgent problems of climate change and America’s growing dependency on foreign oil — and a strong commitment to address both.

One way he can do this is to give mass transit — trains, buses, commuter rails — the priority it deserves and the full financial and technological help it needs and has long been denied.