From Public News Service-PA (http://www.publicnewsservice.org):
November 12, 2010
PHILADELPHIA – Rural and urban grocery stores can be hard to find in Pennsylvania, sometimes located many miles from customers. Many Pennsylvanians end up living on high calorie, low nutrition fast food from convenience stores and restaurants, but an innovative effort is changing the landscape. A nonprofit called The Food Trust is making a difference through its Fresh Food Financing Initiative.
Food Trust Executive Director Yael Lehmann says it offers grants and loans to grocery retailers.
“We’re going to let the operators apply to us and tell us where they want to open the store, and tell us what they need the money for. We’re not going to tell them where to go or how to spend the money. We’ve found that approach really works.”
The program has $120 million to work with from state funding and federal re-investment money. As of June, the Fresh Food Financing Initiative had provided funding for 88 fresh food retail projects in 34 Pennsylvania counties, creating or preserving more than 5,000 jobs.
Successful store applicants get a one-time loan from the fund, but part of the payback comes from the people who live in the urban and rural areas where these stores open, according to Food Trust Senior Associate Caroline Harries.
“We’ve heard from residents who live nearby who haven’t, in some of these neighborhoods, seen a grocery store in 10 to 20 years. What an impact this had on their lives.”
Lehmann says they’re now trying to replicate the Fresh Food Financing initiative in other states, and the issue is also getting more attention from the White House.
“The president has put more than $345 million in the 2011 budget to help grocers across the country open up in areas that are low income or under-served.”