Addressing the need for more stores selling healthy food
More than 2.8 million people in low-income areas in Massachusetts lack access to full-service grocery stores, including more than 700,000 children and 523,000 seniors, according to The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based organization.
In 2012, the Massachusetts Public Health Association launched a campaign to address this issue, advocating for a new state program to expand access to healthy food in low-income areas. This successful campaign led to the creation of the Massachusetts Food Trust in 2014, established within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The Food Trust will provide resources to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which will in turn leverage additional resources from banks, private foundations, and other sources of capital. The CDFIs will provide low-interest loans and small grants to qualifying projects, such as grocery stores, food hubs, community kitchens, and local food enterprises. As the loans are repaid, the funds will be reinvested in additional projects.
The state’s fiscal year 2018 budgets included $1 million in seed funding for the loans and grants portion of the program and $100,000 to cover its administrative costs. Work to develop requests for proposals and operating procedures for the program is ongoing.
Kristina St. Cyr Kimani, MPHA Coalition and Advocacy Manager, credits cross-sector collaboration with the success of the Massachusetts Food Trust campaign so far. Engaging a wide range of statewide and local organizations focused on economic development, health, food access, and agriculture helped build broad support for the project.