Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities


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Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities

  1. 1. Healthy Food,Healthy Communities:Improving Access and OpportunitiesThrough Food RetailingFA L L 2005 Funded By A Grant From:
  2. 2. Principal AuthorsRebecca FlournoySarah TreuhaftPolicyLink TeamJudith Bell Latonia Ellingberg Victor RubinMilly Hawk Daniel Katrin Kärk Mildred ThompsonPolicyLink is a national, nonprofit research, communications,capacity building, and advocacy organization, dedicated toadvancing policies to achieve economic and social equity basedon the wisdom, voice, and experience of local constituencies.AcknowledgmentsPolicyLink is grateful to The California Endowmentfor supporting the development and publication ofthis report. We would like to thank reviewers MarionStandish, program director at The California Endowment,Rick Jacobus, economic development consultant, andHannah Burton, program coordinator at The Food Trust,along with the many practitioners interviewed, for theirfeedback in the development of this report. Helpfulbackground information for this report was providedby the California 5 a Day Campaign, a program of theCalifornia Department of Health Services, through itsdraft paper, Community Solutions to Limited Access inAfrican American Communities.1All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2005 PolicyLink and The California Endowment
  3. 3. PrefaceLike other states across the country, California faces an obesity epidemic. During the 1990s,obesity rates in the state doubled. Rates are highest and have risen the most among people ofcolor, who also face the highest rates of obesity-related health problems such as diabetes andheart disease. A 2005 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that,because of the rapid rise in obesity rates, today’s youth may live shorter lives than their parents.These findings highlight the urgent need for action and leadership to address the obesity epidemic.The California Endowment is investing significant resources through multiple programs to addresshealth disparities in California. In 2005, The California Endowment launched Healthy Eating, ActiveCommunities, a $26 million initiative that aims to fight the growing childhood obesity epidemic.PolicyLink, a national, nonprofit research, communications, capacity building, and advocacyorganization dedicated to advancing economic and social equity, developed this report to addressone important contributor to disparities in obesity and related health conditions: the limited accessthat many residents of low-income communities and communities of color have to affordable, healthyfood. Without opportunities to purchase healthy food, residents in low-income communities havelimited options for healthy eating and often resort to purchasing and consuming unhealthy foodsthat are often found at local corner stores or fast food restaurants. This contributes to obesity, andultimately, to poor health.There is an emerging consensus among researchers and practitioners that conditions in thecommunities where people live—from local economic opportunities, to social interactions withneighbors, to the physical environment, to services such as local stores where people can buyhealthy food—all affect health. This paper builds on earlier work about the effects of communityfactors on health that was developed by PolicyLink in partnership with The California Endowmentin the report, Reducing Health Disparities Through a Focus on Communities.Increasing local healthy food retailing can improve the health of residents and the broader healthof the communities in which they live. Individuals make their own dietary choices, but they makethese choices within a context. Policymakers, business leaders, funders and advocates should takebold leadership to make it easier for all Californians, and particularly those suffering most fromobesity and related health problems, to make healthy choices.Robert K. Ross, M.D. Angela Glover BlackwellPresident and CEO Founder and CEOThe California Endowment PolicyLink Preface 1
  4. 4. Increasing local healthy food retailing can improve the health of residentsand the broader health of the communities in which they live.
  5. 5. Table of ContentsExecutive Summary 4Introduction 8Disparities in Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters Disparities in Access to Healthy Food 10 Why Access Matters 11 Roots of the Access Gap 14 New Food Retailing Opportunities in Underserved Markets 15Strategies and Policy Opportunities to Improve Access to Healthy Food Introduction 18 Developing New Grocery Stores 20 Improving Existing Small Stores 28 Starting and Sustaining Farmers’ Markets 32 Other Options 38Conclusion 40Notes 42Bibliography 46 Table of Contents 3
  6. 6. SUMMARY Executive Summary Executive Summary For decades, low-income urban and rural The case studies presented in this report show communities have faced limited opportunities that access to healthy, reasonably priced food to purchase healthy food. In the 1960s and in low-income communities of color can be 1970s, white, middle-class families left urban achieved—with dramatic results. New centers for homes in the suburbs, and grocery stores can locate in poor supermarkets fled with them—taking jobs communities and spur economic development. and tax revenues along with their offerings of Existing small stores can stock healthier healthy, affordable food. Low-income urban options, promoting local small business residents with limited transportation options development, and in some cases turning a did much of their shopping at small local place seen as a community problem into an stores that had limited selection and high asset. Farmers’ markets can help sustain prices. Rural communities, like underserved small farmers while providing fresh food for urban areas, confronted limited and high- residents, opportunities for small business priced food options, and did not benefit from development, and a public space for increased the jobs and revenues a grocery store could social interaction. Residents can benefit from bring. Advocates sought to increase access to a renewed sense that they live in a vibrant, healthy food, but for decades the problem healthy community. seemed intractable. The poor paid more for their food and had fewer healthy, affordable Many communities in California have high options. There were few examples of successful rates of obesity and limited access to food strategies to improve access to healthy foods. retailers selling high quality, affordable, healthy food. This report offers concerned Disparities in access continue today, contributing residents, policymakers, business leaders, and to obesity and related health problems. In advocates ideas and strategies for improving recent decades, obesity rates have risen access to healthy food in underserved dramatically. The good news, however, is communities across California. While there that there are now many strategies being are challenges to increasing healthy food implemented across the country to address retailing, there are also many examples of this issue. Many of these strategies highlight how these challenges have been overcome unique opportunities for health advocates, in states and communities across the country. community residents, and policy-makers to This report highlights three of the most partner with the private sector. promising strategies: developing new grocery 4 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  7. 7. stores, improving the selection and quality • Facilitate site identification and development.of food in existing smaller stores, and To secure land for new grocery stores, citiesstarting and sustaining farmers’ markets. can launch initiatives to reclaim vacant land and abandoned properties and to clean up brownfields. Grocery stores canDevelop New Grocery Stores adapt to fit into existing smaller sites.Attracting a new grocery store can bechallenging: the process can be lengthy • Adapt practices to meet consumer needs. Byand complex; retailers perceive low-income communicating directly with residents,neighborhoods as unprofitable locations grocery stores can gather more informationwith high operating costs; appropriate sites about local customer preferences. In addition,are hard to find; securing financing is stores can develop relationships with localdifficult; and stores may not be able to meet suppliers, allowing them to better meetthe needs of diverse consumers. To overcome consumers’ needs while also contributingthese challenges, stakeholders can: to community economic development.• Create financing sources dedicated to grocery • Develop partnerships. Community store ventures in underserved communities. organizations can be important State and city governments, private funders, partners—sometimes even owners and and community development intermediaries operators—in grocery store development, can earmark funds for grocery store increasing community acceptance, developments in underserved communities. increasing patronage, lowering theft Pennsylvania recently passed landmark rates, and increasing benefits to the legislation to achieve this goal. community. Political leaders and public agencies also can be important allies.• Develop and use better information tools to assess underserved markets. Grocery store executives need to use accurate data and Improve Existing Small Stores market analyses to ensure that decisions Improving the selection, quality, and prices about building new stores are based on the of goods at existing small stores requires real business opportunities that exist in overcoming the challenges of competing low-income communities. with larger stores located outside the community, convincing stores to change• Reduce operating costs while better serving the their practices or merchandise selection, community. Community organizations can and overcoming negative resident assist stores in identifying and training perceptions of underperforming stores. employees, as well as working to ensure store and customer security. Grocery stores • Collaborate to reduce costs. Small can increase per-trip purchases of urban neighborhood stores can collaborate consumers by providing free or low-cost with other smaller stores to leverage transportation to customers. their collective buying power and engage in joint purchasing. Executive Summary 5
  8. 8. • Link with local farmers and farmers’ markets. • Build community support. Community Small grocers can obtain produce directly organizing and support can increase the success from local farmers or farmers who already of markets in low-income communities. sell at area farmers’ markets. • Expand the WIC and Seniors Farmers’ • Reduce the risk for small stores. Community Market Nutrition Programs. California state groups can encourage small stores to government can increase the amount increase shelf space for fresh produce provided to WIC participants and seniors by generating community support and in coupons that can be used to purchase interest, documenting unmet demand, fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets. subsidizing the cost of adding the new These coupons help sustain farmers’ markets merchandise, and providing assistance in low-income communities. with techniques for buying, selling, and displaying produce. • Link farmers with additional markets. Farm-to-institution programs that • Conduct community outreach. Stores that connect farmers to public schools, begin offering more healthy food can engage universities, hospitals, correctional in promotional activities to potential facilities, and restaurants can increase customers. Community organizations farmers’ profit margins, enabling can assist in this work. their continued participation in farmers’ markets. • Connect stores with small business development resources. Financial and technical assistance • Disseminate farmers’ market-friendly EBT resources for small businesses can be targeted systems. California currently has a successful to small-scale food retailers in low-income statewide pilot program that provides EBT communities who are willing to improve equipment to farmers’ markets, waives the their selection of healthy foods or make usual transactions fees, and reaches out to other changes to better meet the needs food stamp recipients to let them know of local customers. the location of farmers’ markets that accept EBT cards. This program should be continued and improved. Start and Sustain Farmers’ Markets Farmers’ markets locating in low-income • Establish and support farmers’ associations. communities face the challenges of raising Farmers’ market associations can connect funds to organize the market, attaining the farmers with existing markets, arrange for necessary customer and vendor base to them to share costs for transportation and sustain the market, and, since the switch to storage, provide technical assistance on electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards for establishing new markets in low-income food stamps, accepting public benefits. communities, and offer additional benefits.6 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  9. 9. • Provide business development and marketing assistance to vendors. Farmers and local vendors can benefit from individual technical assistance and small business development training programs to improve a range of business practices including accounting, marketing, and product management.This report also briefly describesalternative options for increasing accessto healthy foods. These include: improvingtransportation options to enable residents totravel to stores outside their neighborhood;public markets; mobile markets; cooperativegrocery stores; farm-to-school initiatives;community-supported agriculture; andcommunity gardens.Many options exist to increase access tohealthy food in underserved communities.Implementing these options can both improvethe health of residents and spark localeconomic development. Leaders across thecountry have demonstrated that barriers tohealthy food retailing can be overcome.Policymakers, foundations, communityorganizations, concerned residents, businessleaders, researchers, and advocates shouldjoin together to identify and implementinnovative solutions. Executive Summary 7
  10. 10. INTRODUCTION Introduction This report focuses on increasing access to have shown that low-income communities retail outlets that sell nutritious and affordable of color have fewer supermarkets than food in low-income communities of color. wealthier, white communities.5 Families Making healthy food choices easily in these communities are forced to make accessible is an important strategy to reduce difficult choices about their food purchases obesity, which is increasing at an alarming because of this “grocery gap,” along with rate in the state of California and nationwide.2 income and time constraints that result from The obesity epidemic, and related health poverty. The poor are less likely than others problems like diabetes and heart disease, to own cars, so they spend long periods of disproportionately affects low-income time riding on public transit or coordinating people of color.3 occasional rides with friends or extended family to distant supermarkets. In between Scientists and medical professionals agree that these trips, people choose foods that can poor diet and lack of physical activity are key be purchased quickly and cheaply near contributors to obesity.4 Individuals make their homes. In many low-income urban choices about their eating and exercise neighborhoods and rural communities, the habits, but their choices are affected by the only choices are foods high in fat, calories, environments in which they live. Reducing and sugar that are available at convenience the obesity problem requires a comprehensive and corner stores and fast food restaurants. approach. Advocates are addressing the problem from multiple fronts, working to Increasing access to healthy food retailing maintain federal and local nutrition is an important strategy to improve diets in assistance and emergency food assistance low-income communities of color—yet no programs, using education to influence public official or agency regulates or even individual choices about diet and exercise, monitors communities’ access to retailers and engaging in advocacy to improve selling nutritious, affordable food. Concerned opportunities for healthy eating and residents and community groups often take physical activity. it upon themselves to advocate and plan for new stores. Policymakers and other One important reason many poor families stakeholders, however, can and should have poor diets is because they lack access play important roles in increasing access to places that sell decent quality, nutritious in underserved communities. foods at affordable prices. Many studies 8 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  11. 11. The challenges to increasing healthy food opportunities to help other underservedaccess in low-income communities of communities replicate these successes.color-from businesses’ misperceptions aboutlocal purchasing power, to corner store owners’ With a realistic assessment of the challenges,fears about stocking new food items that an eye on effective models, and organizedmight not sell, to the need for funds to hire communities advocating for change, successa coordinator for a farmers’ market—can be can be achieved. The result is a doubleovercome. There are stories of communities bottom line profits for food retailers, andin California and across the country that social, economic, and health benefits forhave successfully overcome the “grocery gap.” residents and the community.This report presents strategies and policyWest Fresno Food Maxx Supermarket 6In 1995, little new development was occurring in West Fresno, a once thriving community composed of mostlyAfrican American and some Latino residents. For many years, residents had hoped that the Fresno City Councilwould allocate funds to improve neighborhood conditions. Concerned residents gathered together to prioritizewhat they most wanted from the city to spur development and decided construction of a supermarket was atthe top of their list. The small food stores in the area charged high prices for little selection, and many residentshad to depend on the bus to access the selection, quality, and prices available at supermarkets in other partsof the city.Residents began advocating to bring a supermarket to their community. The Affordable Housing Coalition, whichincluded churches and community groups, held a news conference in front of a supermarket in another part ofthe city, where members carried empty grocery bags and demanded that the Fresno City Council set asidemoney from its $11 million Community Development Block Grant to build a shopping center in their community.Over several years, these concerned residents continued to strategize and advocate in a variety of settings. Theyattended public hearings conducted by the city on community development block grant funds and met with citycouncil members, the director of the city’s redevelopment agency, and other public officials. Coalition membersgot residents to sign petitions and turned out hundreds of residents at city council meetings. They also workedwith the media, held press conferences, wrote editorials, built relationships with local reporters, and receivedongoing coverage of their struggle in the Fresno Bee.Once their supermarket campaign gained political support, the coalition continued to move the project forward.They ensured that the city allocated redevelopment funds to help build the super-market; helped local governmentofficials negotiate with local property owners to secure the land for the site; worked to ensure that jobs went tolocal residents; urged the city to make an agreement with a developer; got a police station built to ensuresecurity at the shopping center; and urged the city to approve final zoning for the market.Four years later, the supermarket opened. It has now been serving the community successfully for more thanfive years. Introduction 9
  12. 12. D I S PA R I T I E S Disparities in Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters Disparities in Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters Disparities in Access to Healthy Food • In Atlanta, wealthy black communities have fewer grocery stores within a Geographic Access is Linked five-minute travel distance than wealthy white communities, indicating that the to Race and Income racial composition of a neighborhood has Many studies have documented the lack effects on store locations independent of of supermarkets in poor communities and income level.9 communities of color compared to wealthier, white communities: Not only are grocery stores scarce in many of these communities, but local residents • One study found that middle and upper typically lack transportation options to easily income communities in Los Angeles County get to stores located in other parts of town. have 2.3 times as many supermarkets per Low-income, African American, and Latino capita as low-income communities; the households have less access to private vehicles same study found that predominantly than higher income and white households.10 white communities have 3.2 times the Without access to private vehicles, residents supermarkets of predominantly black of low-income communities often need to communities, and 1.7 times those of arrange rides with friends or relatives, piece predominantly Latino communities;7 together multiple bus routes, or pay for taxi rides to do their grocery shopping. This makes • A multi-state study found that wealthy shopping for groceries costly, or inconvenient, neighborhoods had over three times unreliable, and time-consuming. For example, as many supermarkets as low-wealth residents of low-income communities in neighborhoods. Access also varied by race, the San Francisco Bay Area who rely on with predominantly white neighborhoods public buses to travel to a grocery store having four times more supermarkets than spend about an hour commuting to and predominantly black neighborhoods.8 from the store.11 The average resident in affluent communities in the area can reach 10 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  13. 13. more than three supermarkets by car within Why Access Matters10 minutes round-trip.12 Benefits for ResidentsMyser Keels, a resident and community Studies have shown that access to localactivist who was involved in a coalition that places to purchase healthy food can improvebrought a supermarket to underserved West eating behaviors:Fresno, highlighted the problem caused by ascarcity of stores and limited transportation • A United States study found that Africanoptions at a press conference:13 Americans living in neighborhoods with at least one supermarket were more likely“We want choices. Some poor people use public to meet dietary guidelines for fruit andtransportation and they don’t haul all the groceries vegetable consumption and for fatthey need on the bus. And if they call a cab, intake than African Americans living inthe fare alone can put them in the hole. Some neighborhoods without supermarkets.of the senior citizens I know have trouble getting Additional nearby supermarkets resultedaround because they can’t move like they used in even greater fruit and vegetableto. They have to rely on other folks to take them consumption.16 This remained trueshopping .... It’s just a tragedy that we don’t even after the researchers statisticallyhave a decent shopping center in our area.” controlled for the effects of education and income on food choices.The Poor Pay More for FoodShopping trips to supermarkets, the lack of • In a low-income neighborhood in England,nearby stores and limited transportation the opening of a supermarket resulted inoptions lead low-income residents to shop an increase in the amount fruits andat small stores located closer to their homes. vegetables eaten by residents. ThoseThese small stores, though more convenient, residents with the poorest dietary habitsgenerally offer fewer healthy foods, are before the store opened increased theirpoorly maintained, and charge higher prices. consumption of healthy food the most.17The smaller grocery stores, conveniencestores, and grocery/gas combinations • An evaluation of eight Philadelphiacommonly patronized by poor inner city and farmers’ markets operating primarily inrural residents charge prices that are about low-income communities found that10 percent higher than those found at large more than half the visitors to the marketschain supermarkets.14 Prices at the corner (57 percent) said they had increased theirstores that dot inner city neighborhoods, for fruit and vegetable consumption sinceexample, can be much as 49 percent higher they started coming to the market.18than those of supermarkets, for a limitedselection of canned and processed foods andvery little, if any, fresh meat and produce.15 Disparities in Access to Healthy Food and Why it Matters 11
  14. 14. Benefits for Communities The Pathmark supermarket in Newark’s In addition to the effects on individual Central Ward provides a striking example eating behaviors, successful healthy food of how a new grocery store can contribute to retailers contribute to the broader economic community revitalization. The Central Ward health of the community. Grocery stores, is an African-American community that along with other types of retail and services suffers from severe poverty, depopulation like banks, pharmacies, and restaurants, due to white flight, and disinvestment. are essential components of livable and When Pathmark opened its doors in 1990, well-functioning communities. it was the first supermarket to serve the 55,000-person community in 25 years. Low-income residents often live in The supermarket anchors the New distressed, high-poverty communities that Community Shopping Center, and the have experienced years of population and entire development is jointly owned and job loss, and physical and economic decline. operated by Pathmark and the New New grocery store developments can help Community Corporation (NCC), a revitalize these communities, contributing faith-based community organization. The to economic development. In addition to supermarket has created thousands of jobs, creating jobs for local residents, new stores and since NCC owns 66 percent of the create local shopping opportunities that supermarket and all of the other businesses can capture dollars being spent outside of in the center, profits are channeled directly the community. One study estimated that back into the community through the residents of inner city communities across organization’s housing, child care, job the United States spend $85 million per year training, and educational activities.21 at stores located outside their community.19 Market Creek Plaza in the Diamond New retailers also recycle money in the local Neighborhoods of San Diego provides economy. As purchasers of goods and services, another example of the community the retailers spend money at existing local benefits that can accompany a grocery businesses, which leads to the creation of store development. Around a third of new jobs, which leads to more money for residents in this area have incomes of less people to spend at local businesses. This than $20,000 a year, and 30 percent of cycle also generates more local sales tax residents do not have access to a car. The revenue. While all retail outlets can have Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation this effect, new large grocery stores and (JCNI), an operating foundation dedicated supermarkets that locate in disinvested to neighborhood strengthening and communities often also serve as high community building, will invest all of its volume “anchors” that generate increased resources into the Diamond Neighborhoods foot traffic, and they tend to draw other until it spends or transfers all its assets, in retail stores that sell complementary less than 20 years. JCNI purchased 10 acres goods and services.20 of land for Market Creek Plaza, a commercial12 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  15. 15. real estate project that is being designed, in a process run jointly with the Unitedbuilt, and will ultimately be owned by Food and Commercial Workers residents. Food 4 Less, which Additional stores built in the plaza includeopened four years ago, was selected by the ethnic restaurants, a fitness center, a bank,community as the anchor tenant for the and a gift shop featuring crafts of localdevelopment, and was the first major grocery residents from many cultures. Residentsstore in the area in thirty years. Sixty-nine will eventually own a new communitypercent of the construction contracts for the foundation and a property developmentplaza were awarded to local minority-owned business as a result of JCNI’s investmentsenterprises, and 91 percent of initial and ongoing efforts to promote “residentemployees were hired from the community ownership of neighborhood change.”Rural California: Limited Food Access in a Land of PlentyAlthough much research has been done on food access in inner city communities, less isunderstood about the food access problems faced by rural communities. Existing studies suggeststhat despite their proximity to some of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, manyrural residents have little access to fresh, healthy foods.22 The rural poor have limited access tosupermarkets, and even when they do reach supermarkets, they face prices that are about4 percent higher than those charged by suburban stores.23 And while rural households generallyhave access to cars, those that do not are particularly burdened given the lack of publictransportation options in rural areas. Many rural farmworkers, for example, have limited access tocars, and therefore have little mobility to reach stores beyond their immediate neighborhoods.24Some of the promising strategies and policy options for improving access to healthy food outlinedin this report are also relevant for rural underserved communities. Community organizationshave successfully brought supermarkets to low-income rural areas. Dineh CooperativesIncorporated, a community development corporation on the Navajo Nation, built a Basha’sMarket in rural Chinle, Arizona that created over 170 jobs for local residents. The store hasbeen profitable since its opening and has been expanded four times.25 Other types of foodretailers also show promise. The Selma Flea Market in rural Fresno County, California was thefirst flea market in the nation to accept electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards (food stamps)for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables.26 Other good potential strategies for rural areasinclude: mobile markets, which are trucks that travel through communities selling healthyfood; improved public transportation; community supported agriculture; and farmers’ marketsorganized by hospitals or other institutions or businesses. Disparities in Access to Healthy Food and Why it Matters 13
  16. 16. Roots of the Access Gap neighborhood were small independent groceries that charged high prices and Discriminatory public and private policies offered minimal variety, or corner stores have left people of color isolated from selling a limited selection of processed foods.29 economic opportunity and services. Beginning in the 1930s, the federal government Once they left the city, supermarkets adapted helped subsidize homeownership by insuring their operations to fit their new suburban low-interest private bank loans for home locations. Suburbs contained abundant, mortgages.27 The government developed inexpensive sites for development, and their an appraisal method that categorized and residents had high rates of car ownership mapped city neighborhoods based on their that enabled them to drive to stores located “desirability” for lending. African American farther from their homes. As a result, and low-income neighborhoods—outlined in retailers adopted bigger store formats with red on the maps—were considered the least large parking lots. Because the movement to desirable. This practice of discriminating the suburbs was largely restricted to whites, against neighborhoods on the basis of race and because suburbs were fairly homogenous became known as “redlining.” Communities with respect to income, communities had of color were systematically denied loans relatively similar product preferences. Large until the practice was outlawed in 1970. chain retailers developed business models The maps became self-fulfilling prophesies that they applied across all the stores in their that hastened neighborhood decline chain.30 To stock their stores at the lowest and disinvestment. prices, they developed long-term contracts with large suppliers who offered price breaks These trends of neighborhood decline in exchange for chain retailers’ vast happened as the white middle class purchasing power. A new business model population left urban centers in droves for emerged with across-the-board changes in homes in the suburbs in the 1960s and industry practices starting with development 1970s. Supermarkets, along with many decisions and extending through product other businesses, fled inner city locations selection and marketing. and opened new stores in the suburbs, taking with them jobs and tax revenues in A number of recent studies demonstrate how addition to their selection of healthy food. the marketing analyses influencing retailers’ For example, in Rochester, New York, from location decisions systematically undervalue 1970 to 1995, the number of supermarkets inner city neighborhoods.31 Some have declined from 42 to 8.28 Cut off from referred to these modern business practices opportunity and investment, inner city as “retail redlining,” the shunning of neighborhoods declined precipitously, minority communities by retailers. becoming increasingly isolated and racially segregated. The only food retailers left in the14 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  17. 17. Researchers have highlighted a number of cough syrup, and use laundries andproblems with the data and market analyses laundromats.” The same company describesof private marketing firms and the ways they the residents of the suburban, white Northare used by grocery store decision makers. Shore community as “interested in civicThese firms use national data sources which activities, volunteer work, contributions, andtend to undercount inner city residents, travel.”33 These descriptions are extremelyespecially minorities. Alternative market subjective and are not accurate portrayalsstudies that use local data sources often find of the business potential of low-incomethat population and purchasing power in communities of color. They can steerlow-income communities of color is business decision makers away from locatingsignificantly higher than figures given by in these communities, even when there aretraditional market analyses. A study of two actually significant opportunities in theseWashington D.C. neighborhoods by Social underserved areas.Compact, for example, found that Censusfigures underestimated the population of the New Food Retailing OpportunitiesColumbia Heights-Petworth neighborhood in Underserved Marketsby as much as 55 percent, and of theAnacostia-Hillcrest neighborhood by asmuch as 13 percent.32 Another problem is Academics and business organizations havethat retailers often look at average household begun recognizing the competitive advantageincome rather than at total area income, of inner cities—density of purchasing power,which would more accurately capture the limited competition, and available labordensity and therefore purchasing power of force.34 Some supermarkets, faced withurban neighborhoods. saturated suburban markets and competition from mass discounters such as Wal-Mart,Private marketing firms’ characterization have been able to move beyond assumptionsof low-income communities of color is also about race and spending power to seeproblematic. These firms use demographic potential opportunities in low-incomeand consumer spending data to categorize communities of color.communities into pre-established“neighborhood types” ranked by investment Striking success is possible for stores thatpotential. These neighborhood types with move into underserved, low-incomeshort names like “Difficult Times” draw on communities. For example, Pathmark andracial and class-based stereotypes. For example, Super Stop & Shop—two leading groceryone firm describes the residents of northside store chains in the Northeast—have foundAfrican American neighborhoods in that their highest grossing stores are inMilwaukee as “very low income families low-income communities.35 In addition[who] buy video games, dine at fast food to the potential profits to be made,chicken restaurants, use non-prescription supermarkets benefit by locating in Disparities in Access to Healthy Food and Why it Matters 15
  18. 18. low-income communities of color because options in underserved neighborhoods these store locations can help the entire often translate to health and economic chain understand how to better meet the development benefits for residents and needs of the increasingly racially and their communities. ethnically diverse suburbs.36 These success stories are too few and far It is possible to achieve win-win solutions between. Some low-income communities for businesses and communities—a double have won improved access to healthy food, bottom line of financial return and but many more still face a significant community benefit. With a realistic “grocery gap.” The promising food access evaluation of their potential for success models described in this report provide in underserved communities—driven by important lessons for those who seek to accurate data and not clouded by racial improve resident and community health stereotypes and assumptions—food retailers through access to healthy food. They point can identify and take advantage of to new strategies and policy interventions opportunities in untapped markets. At that can lead to win-win solutions for food the same time, increased food retailing retailers and communities.16 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  19. 19. Studies have shown that access to local places to purchase healthy foodcan improve eating behaviors. Disparities in Access to Healthy Food and Why it Matters 17
  20. 20. Strategies and Policy Opportunities to Improve Access to Healthy FoodS T R AT E G I E S Strategies and Policy Opportunities to Improve Access to Healthy Food Introduction Getting Started Every community has unique assets, challenges, Community residents, advocates, foundations, and goals. To identify the best option for business leaders, and policymakers can all improving food access, some communities play important roles in improving access to conduct community food assessments (CFAs), healthy food in communities across the state. or other participatory research that examines The following section describes three of the a community’s access to healthy food to most promising options for increasing access: determine actions to improve it. To date, about 40 CFAs have been completed in the • Developing New Grocery Stores United States-about half of them in California.37 • Improving Existing Small Stores Another way to plan for improved food • Starting and Sustaining Farmers’ Markets access is to include food access concerns into existing planning processes for neighborhood Each option is described in terms of its revitalization. While these processes rarely particular benefits and challenges, and the integrate the concern for resident health with innovative strategies and policy opportunities community economic development, pressure that stakeholders can champion, implement, from food access advocates can lead to or fund. Not every strategy will work for win-win solutions. Other communities every community. The chart on the assess needs and develop strategies through following page highlights some of the key more informal processes such as ongoing differences between the three healthy food discussions with other concerned neighbors. access options described in this report. In West Fresno, for example (see case study, page 9), discussions among concerned Following these three primary options, we neighbors inspired a sustained advocacy also briefly highlight alternative options effort that resulted in a new supermarket for increasing access to healthy foods, for the community. including: transportation options; public markets; mobile markets; cooperative grocery stores; farm-to-school initiatives; community supported agriculture; and community gardens. 18 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  21. 21. The California Nutrition NetworkThe California Nutrition Network and California 5 a Day Campaign, which are programs withinthe California Department of Health Services, recognize that key elements to foster healthyeating habits among low-income families include community based interventions, mediaadvocacy, and policy and environmental efforts designed to encourage low-income Californiansto make healthy choices. The network and the campaign have worked with community memberson assessments of their neighborhoods to identify assets and barriers related to fruit andvegetable consumption. They also provide training and tools such as neighborhood mapping(available at for local advocates and community based organizations. Ascommunity programs emerge and greater needs are identified, hopefully state governmentwill be able to help build and support their development and implementation.Options for Increasing Access to Healthy Food: Key Differences Developing New Grocery Stores Improving Existing Neighborhood Stores Starting and Sustaining Farmers’ MarketsComplexity / Time Complex and time-consuming. Land must A significant challenge, but less A significant challenge, but less be identified and purchased. Significant complex and requires less complex and requires less financing must be accessed. Supermarket time. Can see results sooner. time. Can see results sooner. chains need to be convinced that the area can support a store. Regulatory processes such as zoning and the construction process also take time.Land The average supermarket is 44,000 square Requires no new land since Only requires a parking lot, a feet, and new stores are usually much larger. the stores already exist. blocked off street, or another public They require ample parking lots, and are space that can be used for short often anchors to much larger developments periods of time. that include other retail stores. Smaller grocery stores are typically 10,000 to 12,000 feet and may fit into existing sites.Funding New supermarkets require millions of dollars Re-outfitting a corner store to A reasonable first year budget is to construct and operate. Smaller grocery sell fresh produce can cost less approximately $34,000, though stores are less expensive but still cost over than $100,000 in technical markets can cost as little as $2,000 a million dollars. assistance, equipment, and or as much as $150,000 per year.39 initial inventory.38Customer BaseCustomer Base Supermarkets require extremely high volume It is helpful to demonstrate Need enough customers to be and so must draw shoppers from beyond a community interest in purchasing worth the farmers’ time at the single immediate neighborhood. It’s important healthy foods so that storeowners market and transportation costs, to consider whether residents in adjacent know that they will be able to as well as enough profit to pay neighborhoods would come to a new sell whatever produce they for a market coordinator. supermarket. Heavily trafficked roads can purchase and still make a profit. increase potential customer base. Smaller grocery stores can rely more on neighborhood customer bases. Strategies and Policy Opportunities to Improve Access to Healthy Food 19
  22. 22. Developing New Grocery Stores Other types of grocery stores, such as smaller, independently owned stores, can be successful In communities without access to a quality, in low-income communities and may offer full-service grocery store, bringing a new comparable prices as well as more specialized grocery store to the area is a high priority. products that are attuned to local consumers’ Often, residents want a large, suburban-style tastes and preferences. Independent grocers supermarket or a “superstore” with a have proven that they can be successful in recognizable name to locate in their low-income communities, and they have community. Supermarkets are defined by the greater flexibility to adapt their merchandise industry as full-service grocery stores that mix and practices to meet consumers’ needs. bring in over $2 million in sales annually, “Limited assortment” stores like the national though the average sales volume is much Save-A-Lot chain offer deeply discounted higher-over $18 million.40 Attracting such a merchandise. That chain, in particular, has store to an underserved community can committed to locating in urban and rural areas bring many rewards, but because of their that lack access to larger, more conventional business models and size, large supermarkets stores, as well as enhancing its produce are usually the most difficult type of grocery department in response to customer demand.41 store to bring to a low-income community. Neighborhood Groceries: Solving the Supermarket Dilemma Because supermarkets need to move large quantities of merchandise in order to turn a profit, they serve areas that are much larger than one neighborhood and require very large sites that are extremely difficult to assemble in dense urban areas. Not every community can support this food retailing model. One potential solution to this dilemma is the development of viable smaller-scale grocery stores that can provide the variety, quality, and price of supermarkets while relying on a smaller customer base and fitting into smaller spaces. Neighborhood groceries can both increase food access and fit into community visions for walkable, livable neighborhoods that promote physical activity, thus addressing the obesity problem from multiple angles. Finding a scalable small-store model should be a priority for food advocates, communities, and retailers. Ethnic markets, greengrocers, specialty stores, and limited assortment stores could prove useful in developing these models since they sometimes successfully locate on smaller sites in underserved communities.20 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  23. 23. “Specialty” stores such as Whole Foods Markets Community economic development. Grocerycan be successful in “dual market” areas stores can spur local economic developmentthat comprise both low-income and in underserved communities. Newmiddle-income neighborhoods. developments often pave the way for additional private sector investment, sinceDeveloping a new grocery store can bring grocery stores are high-volume magnets thatmany health and economic benefits to support complementary stores and servicescommunities, but there are also many barriers like pharmacies, video rentals, andto overcome. As previously described, when restaurants. With more places to spendsupermarkets fled the city for suburban money locally, these stores capturelocations in the 1960s, they developed residents’ dollars that were formerlybusiness models suited for the suburbs. “leaking” out to other communities.In addition, food retailers rely on When community-serving institutionsinformation sources that undercount the like community development corporationspopulation and spending power—and thus (CDCs) hold ownership interests in thethe profitability—of inner city locations, and stores, they reinvest profits into thethat rely on stereotypes of both urban and community through their other activitiesrural communities. In spite of significant such as local affordable housing constructionchallenges, a number of innovative strategies or small business development.are being developed across the country toovercome these barriers. Tax revenue for municipalities. Grocery store developments bring needed revenue to cash-strapped municipalities through salesBenefits and property taxes. Community residentsSelection, quality, and price. Full-service benefit through tax-financed city stores carry a wide selection oflow-priced goods. Supermarkets enable Physical revitalization. New stores contributeone-stop shopping and often house to the physical revitalization of communitiesadditional services that are difficult to by returning abandoned and vacant land tofind in underserved neighborhoods, such productive pharmacies or in-store banks.Jobs. New grocery stores bring needed jobs Challengesto communities that often have high levels Perception of profitability. Supermarkets—withof unemployment. Each supermarket creates annual profit margins averaging oneanywhere between 100 and 200 permanent percent—are focused on a very tight bottomjobs, many of which go to local residents, and line and often cite lack of profitability asthey also provide temporary construction jobs.42 a barrier to investment in underservedA large proportion of grocery employees belong communities. A survey of retail executivesto unions and receive benefits. Almost all of found that their top three concerns werethe major chains in California are unionized. insufficient customer base, lack of consumer Strategies and Policy Opportunities to Improve Access to Healthy Food 21
  24. 24. purchasing power, and crime or perception community development intermediaries, of crime. Other concerns included higher state and local economic development operating costs in urban locations due to programs, and federal agencies such as additional expenses for security, insurance, HUD, the Department of Human Services, and real estate taxes.43 Customers’ smaller and the Department of Commerce.45 average purchase sizes and more frequent Harlem’s Abyssinian Development shopping trips can also lead to higher Corporation (see page 23) assembled loans operating costs since stores need to hire from four private banks, a community additional cashiers to cover the higher development intermediary, and a state volume of transactions. economic development agency; federal and state grants; and an equity investment Securing a site. Grocery stores have large from a private equity fund to finance the and growing site requirements. They need $15 million development of the first ample parking lots and are often built as a Pathmark supermarket in Harlem.46 part of much larger retail developments that sit on 10 or more acres of land. Such sites Meeting the needs of diverse consumers. are difficult to find in densely built urban Shifting their operations from models that areas, where land is expensive, ownership is suit historically homogenous suburban fragmented, and sites may be environmentally communities to ones that meet the needs contaminated. Negotiating the zoning and of racially-mixed communities and the regulatory processes involved in land increasingly diverse suburbs presents a acquisition can also be burdensome. challenge for large chain grocers. They lack sound, unbiased information on community Assembling the land needed to build a new demographics and consumer preferences, store can take years, and may require litigation and they are locked into contracts with and municipal intervention. For example, suppliers to stock the same merchandise acquiring the 62 parcels for the NCC in all of their stores based on what sells Pathmark development in Newark, New in suburban markets. Jersey, described on page 12, took eight years, including six years of lobbying Complexity. One of the biggest obstacles for the state to exercise its power to condemn communities that want to bring a grocery some of the properties, and two years of legal store to their area is the amount of time battles involving the last six absentee owners.44 and complexity involved in commercial real estate development. Supermarket Obtaining financing. Grocery store developments are exceptionally large, developments are multi-million dollar real risky, and difficult deals to pull together, estate deals that require high levels of and often require specialized negotiation start-up and operating capital. Financing skills and expertise.47 these costs means combining grants and loans from multiple public and private sources, including commercial banks,22 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  25. 25. Harlem’s Pathmark SupermarketIn Harlem, two community organizations—The Community Association of East Harlem AbyssinianTriangle (EHAT) and the Abyssinian Development Corporation—worked for ten years to bring asupermarket to the community. When it opened in 1999, the 64,000 square foot, $15 millionretail center anchored by a Pathmark supermarket was one of the new real estatedevelopments that catalyzed Harlem’s recent commercial renaissance.Community involvement was critical to the project. EHAT and Abyssinian secured projectfinancing, leveraging three dollars of private sector funds for every dollar of public funding.They also negotiated an agreement with Pathmark to guarantee that at least 75 percent ofthe new jobs would go to local residents.48The store faced many challenges along the way. Small local grocers, worried that they wouldbe driven out of business by the new supermarket, protested the development. The majorityof residents, however, welcomed the new store. EHAT helped them advocate for thedevelopment, the smaller grocers’ protest subsided, and the building process continued.The store has been extremely successful. Data from 1999 showed that the supermarket met orexceeded industry averages in almost every category. An in-store bank branch has opened inthe supermarket and provides residents with a safe, secure environment where they can dotheir banking. The store now has one of the largest produce departments in New York City.49Innovative Strategies and • In 2000, the federal government enactedPolicy Options the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC)Create financing options. Public and private program, a $15 billion federal taxinstitutions can develop non-conventional initiative designed to increase investmentsources of capital that can be used to capital in low-income grocery store ventures in Community development organizationsunderserved communities. can apply to receive the tax credits, which are offered to private investors who• State and city agencies can create funding commit to equity investments in business pools earmarked for grocery store developments that serve low-income developments. In 2003, Pennsylvania communities.50 The case study on page 27 passed landmark legislation to fund the shows how the NMTC program can development of fresh food retailers, contribute to grocery store development. including grocery stores and farmers’ markets in underserved communities • Community development intermediaries throughout the state (see page 27). can also help community/grocery store Strategies and Policy Opportunities to Improve Access to Healthy Food 23
  26. 26. partnerships access needed capital. From and Washington, D.C., to develop 1992 to 2000, the Local Initiatives comprehensive information databases to Support Corporation (LISC) operated guide investment decisions in these cities. The Retail Initiative, an equity fund that provided development financing and • Existing free resources. There are free technical assistance to supermarket resources already available online that can developments in nine low-income provide insight into how a community communities. Though The Retail might be viewed by retailers. The Initiative is no longer operating, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee local LISC offices continue to assist Employment and Training Institute offers with financing the development of free profiles of purchasing power, business grocery stores. activity, and workforce density for Census tracts and zip codes within the 100 largest Develop and Use Better Information Tools metropolitan areas in the United States.51 to Assess Underserved Markets Another free resource is, which provides profiles of any community • Innovative market analyses. Responding to based on zip codes. Though this resource the inadequacy of traditional marketing is less relevant to the largest grocery store analyses, companies such as Social retailers, smaller retailers do use these Compact and MetroEdge have developed reports in their decision-making.52 alternative market assessment methods that more accurately describe the business Reduce Operating Costs While Better conditions in underserved communities. Serving the Community Their results often indicate much higher investment potential than shown by • Provide return transportation to increase traditional analyses. purchase size. Grocery stores can reduce costs that relate to the more frequent, • Accurate and timely information databases. smaller per-trip purchases of consumers To bridge the information gap in by providing free or low-cost return underserved communities, cities and transportation to customers in exchange community development intermediaries for minimum purchase sizes. In Los Angeles, around the country are developing Numero Uno Market and Ralphs operate sophisticated databases on property such transportation services from some of availability, crime conditions, local their stores. The Ralphs located in the demographics, and other indicators to West Adams neighborhood adjacent to inform development. The Urban Markets the University of Southern California, for Initiative of the Brookings Institution, for example, offers a free return trip to example, is partnering with the National customers who spend $25. A feasibility Neighborhood Indicators Partnership and analysis of grocery shuttle services found affiliated organizations in Baltimore, that they can pay for themselves within Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Providence, two to 10 months.5324 Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing
  27. 27. • Partner with community groups to find • Clean up brownfields that are potential and keep good employees. Community store sites. Aggressively cleaning up organizations can assist stores in brownfields, or contaminated sites, can identifying and training employees. free up land for productive use and provide This reduces the stores’ costs for employee sites for new grocery stores. Cities can recruitment and training, improves assess which brownfield sites have the employee retention, and can increase potential to house grocery stores, prioritize the likelihood that jobs in the store these sites for remediation, and apply will go to neighborhood residents. for funding sources that seek to harness brownfields for economic developmentFacilitate Site Identification and Development in low-income communities, such as HUD’s Brownfields Economic• Reclaim vacant and abandoned properties. Development Initiative. Many distressed communities contain thousands of parcels of vacant land that • Adapt store formats to fit existing sites. can be returned to productive use. In Given the difficulty in finding large recent years, many cities including Flint, sites in cities-and increasing interest Philadelphia, Richmond and Baltimore in more compact urban development (see box, below) have launched ambitious patterns-some supermarkets are adapting initiatives to reclaim their vacant their site requirements to work within properties by streamlining the land the constraints of the existing urban acquisition process, actively scouting environment, experimenting with smaller out sites, and marketing sites to store formats, reducing their parking potential developers.54 requirements in areas with heavy footProject 5000: Reclaiming Land for Grocery StoresBaltimore mayor Martin O’Malley has prioritized returning the city’s vacant properties to productiveuse as well as bringing new grocery stores to the city. In January 2002, he launched Project 5000,a plan to reclaim 5,000 of the city’s 14,000 vacant and abandoned parcels.The city is making progress with acquiring properties, and the Baltimore Development Corporation,the city’s quasi-public economic development arm, works closely with developers to assembleland for grocery store development. The city has also developed CitiStat, a parcel-basedinformation system that enables the city to track its progress toward to Project 5000 goal.Actively reclaiming properties and prioritizing supermarket development is a winning combinationfor healthy food access: since O’Malley took office, 18 new grocery stores have located in the city.55 Strategies and Policy Opportunities to Improve Access to Healthy Food 25