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Grocers Can Help Give Low-Income Communities Access Healthy Foods: Report

NEW YORK--Supermarkets and poorer communities are working together to improve residents' access to healthy, affordable food, according to a new report from PolicyLink, a national nonprofit advocacy organization based here, and in Oakland, Calif.

The report, "Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities through Food Retailing," describes examples of successful programs in Baltimore, Boston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Newark, New York, Providence, St. Louis, Washington, and throughout the states of California and Pennsylvania, in which food store operators are working with state and local governments to offer greater access to healthy food in low-income neighborhoods.

PolicyLink founder and c.e.o. Angela Glover Blackwell said the report was developed "to address one important contributor to disparities in obesity and related health conditions: the limited access that many residents of low-income communities and communities of color have to affordable, healthy food. Increasing local healthy food retailing can improve the health of residents and the broader health of the communities in which they live."

It details a series of solutions to the challenges of getting more nutritious food to low-income neighborhoods, including:

--State and city governments earmarking funds for grocery store development in underserved communities.

--Vacant land, abandoned properties, and existing smaller sites being adapted.

--Community organizations forming partnerships in grocery store development, and sometimes even owning and operating the stores.

Additionally, the report shows some of the ways small stores are also being improved, including:

--Community groups urging small stores to boost shelf space for fresh produce, by generating community interest, documenting unmet demand, subsidizing the cost of adding new merchandise, and assisting with buying, selling, and displaying produce.

--Financial and technical assistance resources being allocated to small-scale food retailers that are willing to improve their selection of healthy foods.

Finally, the report discusses ideas for increasing access and improving health outcomes, among them:

--Grocery store executives getting accurate data to gauge the real business opportunities that exist in low-income communities.

--Smaller stores leveraging their collective buying power and engaging in joint purchasing.

--Small stores joining with local farmers and farmers' markets to obtain produce directly.

"Healthy Food, Healthy Communities" can be found at
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