Gillibrand Offers $1B Plan Backing Up White House on Local Food Outlets

Her approval rating on the rise amid a difficult election battle, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) joined the president’s campaign against childhood obesity this week by proposing $1 billion in loans and grants to build healthier neighborhood grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

food_desert_1.jpgThe view from one type of "food desert." (Photo: Springfield Institute)

Gillibrand’s legislation, co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), aligns with the $400 million healthy food plan included in the 2011 White House budget. Both programs would follow the template of Pennsylvania’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative by offering loans and grants to help construct new grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other food outlets in historically under-served neighborhoods.

The bill aims to eradicate the growing phenomenon of "food deserts," the moniker advocates have bestowed on lower-income areas — in New York and Chicago as well as in more rural areas — where the lack of access to fresh food leaves residents dependent on sugary, fattening fast-food alternatives.

Traveling outside a food desert is often impossible without a car, an option out of reach for many of the neighborhoods’ most needy residents.

Research on travel behavior conducted by the University of California-Davis’ Susan Handy found that in areas where markets and other stores were one-fifth of a mile or less from most homes, 87 percent of residents regularly walked to run errands. When that average distance between home and market increased to three-fifths of a mile, the share of even periodic foot travelers dropped to one-third.

Gillibrand’s office also highlighted the job-creation potential of healthier food access, estimating in a release that the $1 billion grant program would create 200,000 new jobs nationwide and 26,000 in New York City.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

White House Pitches $400M for Healthier Neighborhood Food Outlets

|
The connection between walkable development and grocery shopping may not seem immediately apparent — until you consider studies conducted in cities from Austin to Seattle that showed the share of trips taken by foot or by transit rises as local food outlets move closer to residential areas. The White House budget envisions a new investment […]

In Defense of the Corner Market

|
Much has been made of the food desert phenomenon afflicting the industrial Midwest. GOOD Magazine, Dateline, NBC and countless others have weighed in on the apparent market failure that causes grocery stores to shun cities like Detroit and Cleveland like a bad case of head lice. This whole storyline reached a fever pitch earlier this […]

Camden’s Waterfront Abyss Wins the 2015 Golden Crater

|
From the Texas Panhandle to the Bay Area, from the shores of the Detroit River to the Gulf Coast of Florida — America’s cities are a pockmarked mess, blighted by asphalt parking expanses you can practically see from space. Streetsblog readers submitted two dozen horrendous parking craters for consideration in this year’s Parking Madness tournament, and the editors picked 16 to vie […]

5 Things the USDA Learned From Its First National Survey of Food Access

|
The links between transportation, development patterns, and people’s access to healthy food are under increasing scrutiny from policy makers trying to address America’s obesity epidemic. Here’s some new data that sheds light on Americans’ access to fresh food. The USDA recently completed the first “National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey,” which delves into where people buy their food and how they get there. […]