Our congressman, Bob Brady, wrote about one of his favorite passions yesterday - food deserts.
Here’s some of his statements followed by some of my comments.
BRADY: Parents have a responsibility to teach their children healthy eating habits that will guide them throughout their lives, but for too many families it is not as simple as just heading to the local grocery store.
ROOTS: Teaching healthy eating habits and going to the grocery store are two completely different actions.
BRADY: Every day, all across this country, 24 million Americans live in food deserts, defined as either urban areas lacking access to a supermarket within one mile, or rural areas lacking similar access within 10 miles.
ROOTS: That’s the first time I’ve seen the definition of a food desert in terms of miles from a supermarket. Would Sam & Sam be considered a supermarket? If so, a lot of Chester people live within a mile.
BRADY: Without a convenient and affordable way to buy healthy food, individuals either spend hours traveling or are forced to feed their families significantly less nutritious options, many of which are often more expensive.
ROOTS: Supermarkets don’t just sell healthy foods and no one has to spend hours traveling to buy an apple.
BRADY: High start-up costs and limited access to capital often prevent local grocery operators from opening new outlets in food deserts, even though many that have opened in these underserved communities have been commercially successful.
ROOTS: People must eat and it’s proven that supermarkets in ‘underserved’ communities have been successful. But you and I both know that many Chester folks will still ride to Brookhaven, Aston, and Eddystone to food shop.
BRADY: Urban grocery-store owners face increased real-estate costs or limited availability of commercial real estate, increased employee training needs and costs, elevated security expenses and, often, zoning restrictions. Grocery stores in rural food deserts face increased food-delivery costs due to distance from distributors, dispersed customer base and low volume.
ROOTS: Chester has Keystone Opportunity Zones which have made it too easy and affordable for a supermarket developer to just plop one down somewhere around here. Food delivery via I-95 and Rt. 291 makes truck traffic easy. The security and low volume is a problem due to Chester folks shopping elsewhere and no outsiders coming into Chester.
BRADY: To address this growing health and economic problem, we have recently reintroduced the bipartisan Healthy Food Financing Initiative, aimed at creating a national effort to expand access to healthful, fresh foods in underserved communities...takes a market-based approach to address these challenges by providing flexible loan and grant financing to local grocery operators.
BRADY: Our initiative is based on the successful Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which has supported 88 new or improved fresh-food retail outlets since 2004 and leveraged a $30 million state grant to generate $192 million in grocery stores and other projects.
Pennsylvania's initiative has created or retained more than 5,000 jobs and increased access to healthful food for more than 400,000 residents across the commonwealth. In 2006, a single 57,000-square-foot store in Philadelphia created 370 jobs for residents and generated $540,910 of local tax revenue in one year.
ROOTS: Wow. All that is going on in Pennsylvania and Chester still doesn’t have a supermarket. Sad.
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