White House Officials Converge In Philly to Explore Fresh Food Initiative

Last week Philadelphia was the site of the first leg of the National Conversation on Urban and Metropolitan America as officials from the Obama administration met to hear about local efforts to provide fresh, quality food in low-income communities.

Adolfo Carrion, director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, led a national delegation including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Sims on a visit to Philadelphia to hear about the development of Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Initiative and efforts to encourage supermarket development in urban areas. The program is being heralded as a prime example of the type of collaborative partnership and innovative thinking needed in urban and metropolitan communities across the nation.

ShopRite owner Jeff Brown provide a tour for the group of one of his stores located 1575 N. 52nd St. in Philadelphia, Pa., which was followed by a Town Hall on the Future of Urban and Metropolitan America in the ShopRite complex.

The Obama administration is looking into Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) as a model for a national effort to get fresh fruits and vegetables into underserved communities by rehabilitating or building grocery stores. The program, which twice has been cited by Harvard University as one of the nation’s premier public policy programs, was recently lauded in a New York Times editorial.

Seeded with $30 million from the state that was leveraged by The Reinvestment Fund to create a $120 million initiative, Pennsylvania’s FFFI is a public-private partnership that also involves The Food Trust, the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition and the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development. The partnership provides grants and loans to qualified food retail enterprises for predevelopment costs such as financing, construction and workforce development.
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