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Rite Aid Rebrands Charity With Focus on Food Equity

$10M Strengthening Cities initiative to support healthier, more equitable neighborhoods
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Rite Aid Rebrands Charity With Focus on Food Equity
Rite Aid's Strengthening Cities initiative will support sustainable programs such as community gardens and urban farms.

Rite Aid Healthy Futures, the charity formerly known as The Rite Aid Foundation, has launched its next era of philanthropic work with the announcement of a $10 million Strengthening Cities initiative supporting healthier and more equitable neighborhoods.

The rebranded Rite Aid Healthy Futures, originally launched as The Rite Aid Foundation in 2001 by Rite Aid, has supported children’s health and wellness for more than two decades. However, Healthy Futures recognized the need to sharpen its focus when the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing racial equity movement in 2020 exacerbated the societal fault lines born of systemic discrimination.

Starting with a focus on food equity, the retailer's Strengthening Cities initiative will initially fund 20 nonprofit organizations with an emphasis on Black and Brown-led charities across Baltimore; Cleveland; Detroit; Philadelphia; Fresno, Calif.; and Buffalo, N.Y. The grants will support sustainable programs that widen food access, advance food sovereignty, address food apartheid, and ultimately improve health outcomes for children and their families. Programs include community gardens, urban farms, school partnerships and hunger relief efforts.

“Racial inequities and health disparities across big cities and small towns in the U.S. continue to profoundly affect the lives and futures of tens of millions of Americans every day. ZIP codes have unparalleled consequences for one’s life opportunities and long-term outlook,” said Matt DeCamara, executive director of Rite Aid Healthy Futures. “The Strengthening Cities initiative will confront the harsh realities of poverty and hunger while impacting many lives and futures. We cannot achieve racial equity if we do not also achieve health equity for all Americans.”

Rite Aid Healthy Futures identified its six focus cities and the emphasis on healthy food by mapping demographic and health-related data in locations where Rite Aid stores have a significant presence. Staff from Healthy Futures spent the past several months listening and learning from nonprofit organizations, racial equity leaders and food sovereignty experts to tailor strategic neighborhood-level responses for each community.

Staff discovered that in Philadelphia, up to half of the residents of some neighborhoods find themselves more than half a mile from a grocery store.

In Detroit, the Michigan Department of Agriculture classified as many as 19 neighborhoods where a lack of grocery stores and of a reliable transportation system make it hard for those without a vehicle to find fresh, affordable food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture identified 93 census tracts in Fresno County where residents live more than half a mile (city) or 10 miles (rural) from the nearest grocery store.

Additionally, most of the areas in Buffalo without adequate access to grocery stores are clustered in the city’s eastern neighborhoods, where at least three in four residents are people of color.

Rite Aid points out that in many places, life expectancy, the ultimate indicator of health and wellness, can span 20- to 30-year differences in nearby sections of the same city, often depending on one’s race and ethnicity.

“One of the causes of poor health in many predominantly Black urban communities is lack of easy access to high-quality, fresh, nutrient-dense produce. Our programs, and others like it across the country, address this crisis by providing access to those essential foods,” said Malik Yakini, executive director at the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, one of the initial grant recipients. “Our programs also encourage community members to take action to create more equitable and healthier communities. Ultimately, we are striving to nurture a sense of agency within the young people so that they see themselves as having responsibility to make positive changes in their community.”

The full list of initial Strengthening Cities grant recipients can be found below (additional funding partners and amounts will be revealed in the future).

Baltimore: $1.05 million to 4 organizations

  • Maryland Food Bank: $400,000 over two years
  • Plantation Park Heights Urban Farm: $250,000 over two years
  • Johns Hopkins Centro SOL: $200,000 over two years
  • Intersection of Change: $200,000 over two years

Cleveland: $1.17 million to 3 organizations

  • The FARE Project: $650,000 over two years
  • Greater Cleveland Food Bank: $400,000 over two years
  • Food Strong: $120,000 over two years

Detroit: $900,000 to 2 organizations

  • Detroit Black Community Food Security Network: $500,000 over two years
  • Keep Growing Detroit$400,000 over two years

Philadelphia: $1.82 million to 6 organizations

  • Bartram’s Garden: $400,000 over two years
  • New Kensington Community Development Corp.: $400,000 over two years
  • Philabundance: $400,000 over two years
  • Urban Tree Connection: $300,000 over two years
  • The Food Trust: $200,000 over two years
  • Urban Creators: $120,000 over two years

Fresno: $2 million to 2 organizations

  • Fresno Metro Ministry: $1.82 million over two years
  • Fresno Community Health Improvement Partnership (FCHIP): $180,000 over two years

Buffalo: $600,000 to 2 organizations

  • Buffalo Center for Health Equity: $300,000 over two years
  • Grassroots Garden WNY and Massachusetts Avenue Project (joint): $300,000 over two years
Rite Aid Rebrands Charity With Focus on Food Equity

The Rite Aid charity organization officially rebranded itself as Rite Aid Healthy Futures this week, unveiling a new visual look. The charity’s new tagline – “Uplifting Our Neighborhoods Together” – speaks to how Rite Aid Healthy Futures aims to advance health, equity and opportunity in ways that respect the intrinsic values of the neighborhoods the charity serves.

“Our new identity is a commitment to do all we can to create a world in which everyone won’t just imagine – but live – a healthy future,” DeCamara said. “We recognize the long journey ahead to advance and achieve equity for our neighbors and neighborhoods. But we believe that by working together with our partners and Rite Aid customers, we can make positive change one city, one neighborhood, one person, one action at a time. We can all be the human spark that drives real progress and uplifts our neighborhoods.”

With more than 2,000 retail pharmacy locations across 17 states, Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid is No. 19 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. 

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