For the InstructorThese student materials complement the Future of Food Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.
Reading for Summative Assessment: successes in addressing food deserts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A short excerpt from pp. 104-106 in "Re-storing America's food deserts", chapter 8 in Winne, M. (2008). Closing the food gap: Resetting the table in the land of plenty. Beacon Press.
Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty by Mark Winne
Copyright ? 2007 by Mark Winne
Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press, Boston
The Philadelphia Story
Reducing the physical distance between lower-income households and their food sources has increasingly required the intervention of the public sector. Successful efforts to bring full-line supermarkets to underserved communities necessitate a joint partnership between public and private entities, often for-profit and non-profit organizations. Likewise, bringing people to the food demands an active engagement with the agencies that plan and manage public transportation. In other words, pulling the levers of public policy has become virtually the only effective recourse for those whom the marketplace has failed.
Nowhere have these relationships become more apparent than in Philadelphia, where a nonprofit organization called the Food Trust (formerly known as the Farmers Market Trust) has successfully confronted some of urban America's most severe food access problems. According to a 2001 report from the Food Trust,
The Greater Philadelphia Region has 70 too few supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods. This shortage of supermarkets means that poor residents must travel out of their neighborhoods to purchase food, or shop at more expensive corner and convenience stores with less selection and often poor quality food. The insufficient access reduces the purchasing power of neighborhood residents and may exacerbate long-term health problems resulting from nutritionally inadequate diets.
Perhaps what is most intriguing about the Food Trust's research is that it found not an insufficiency of sales potential in lower income areas, but instead an insufficient number of food stores. The marketplace had failed for reasons that have been discussed elsewhere in this book – misperceptions of lower-income communities, racism, more certain opportunities elsewhere, higher development and operating costs – Which meant that extra-market efforts were necessary to restore balance to the marketplace.
To address this severe imbalance the Food Trust recommended that city and state economic development agencies bring together leaders in the supermarket industry to develop a strategy to open more supermarkets. They also prevailed upon the government to use public funds to "reduce the risks associated with the development of more supermarkets in lower and moderate income communities."
Rarely have the research and recommendations of a nonprofit advocacy group born such fruit as they have in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. Under the leadership of the Food Trust, various groups advocated before the Pennsylvania legislature and governor for a state-funded investment pool to be used to increase the number of supermarkets and other grocery stores in underserved communities across the state. Lo and behold, the measure passed, and the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) opened its doors in 2005. According to the Food Trust, the initiative serves the financing needs of supermarket operators that plan to operate in these underserved communities where infrastructure costs and credit needs cannot be filled solely by conventional financial institutions.
The results have been impressive. The state of Pennsylvania has invested twenty million dollars which in turn has leveraged sixty million dollars from the Reinvestment Fund, a mid-Atlantic region community investment organization. As of 2006, the FFFI had committed 21.9 million dollars in grants and loans to 22 supermarket projects in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Eddystone, and Gettysburg. This unprecedented investment in closing the food gap in both rural and urban communities had created 2552 new jobs and more than 1.1 million square feet of retail space.
Closing the food gap first requires that the public and private sectors be committed to closing the financial gap. With the cost of new retail development running more than one hundred dollars per square foot, the FFFI investment equaled approximately twenty dollars per square foot. Thus public sources provided 20% of the total deal which roughly equals the conventional investor's assessment of risk. In a simplified explanation of risk assessment, private investors acting rationally and free of misperceptions about urban neighborhoods would say their financial risk is 20% greater in a lower income area than it is in an affluent area. That is the financial gap more or less that government must fill in order to close the food gap.