In healthy communities, residents have access to all the resources they need to thrive — including fresh, healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food — regardless of race or income. Yet in too many communities, particularly low-income communities and communities of color, the only places to buy food are fast food restaurants and convenience stores that sell unhealthy, sugary, processed foods.
In other cases, there are no nearby food vendors of any kind. Not surprisingly, residents living in underserved neighborhoods and communities without access to high-quality fresh food face higher risks of obesity, diabetes, and other poor health outcomes. However, local leaders and advocates across the country are working to expand access to healthy, fresh, affordable food for people of color and low-income neighborhoods by supporting food businesses across the entire food system – from grocery stores, food cooperatives, and farmers’ markets, to food hubs, distribution networks, and food recovery enterprises.
These efforts not only make it easier for people to access healthy food but also support local and regional economic development. Some healthy food business policies incentivize local hiring, bringing needed job opportunities for residents. The development of a grocery store typically creates between 100 and 200 permanent jobs in addition to providing temporary construction jobs. These stores also generate increased foot traffic that attracts complementary retailers like pharmacies and restaurants to the neighborhood, generating more jobs and local sales tax revenue. Other healthy food business models create fewer jobs but provide other benefits, such as the opportunity for food cooperative workers to gain employee ownership. In addition to creating or retaining jobs, new food retailers support the local economy when they purchase goods and services from other local businesses, including producers and distributors.
In addition to the PolicyLink resources listed on the right, visit the Healthy Food Access Portal for more resources on healthy food business development.