Recently, representatives from the White House Domestic Policy Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Treasury joined representatives from various community projects from around the country to discuss how to increase healthy food access to communities in need. The event included representatives from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Food Research and Action Center, PolicyLink, and the Fair Food Network.
Participants shared their stories of success, and what we can do to encourage more healthy foods in these communities. For example:
These stories were just a few we heard during this event, emphasizing the unique and innovative work being done across the country to enhance health and access to food for folks from all walks of life. The Obama Administration has made increasing healthy food access a priority. In partnership with the White House, the Department of the Treasury, HHS, and USDA have been working collaboratively to support innovative strategies to increase healthy food access.
One such strategy is the Health Food Financing Initiative, or HFFI. The recently signed Farm Bill authorizes an HFFI program at USDA, and the President’s most recent budget proposal includes a $13 million request for this work. The initiative will provide financial and technical assistance to eligible fresh, healthy food retailers for the purposes of market planning and promotion efforts as well as infrastructure and operational improvements designed to stimulate demand among low-income consumers for healthy foods and to increase the availability and accessibility of locally and regionally produced foods in underserved areas.
This program will help USDA to continue collaboration with other federal partners to ensure that communities in need have access to fresh, healthy, affordable food. It will expand healthy food access for families on SNAP – some 46.6 million individuals in 2012, the vast majority of whom are children, elderly, or living in households where members were employed in low-wage jobs.
A particular focus for USDA will be the expansion of healthy food options in rural areas, which often lack grocery stores and other retail outlets. HFFI will allow USDA and our partners to support creative strategies to increase access to healthy foods in rural America.
The USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative also coordinates work on local food investments, including distribution, which is a key element of increasing healthy food access. The White House Rural Council is making healthy food access in rural communities a priority, as it impacts the future health and economics of rural America.
Doug McKalip is the Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs at the White House Domestic Policy Council.