Grocery stores offer stable, sustainable, local jobs for a broad range of employees. Because so many grocery store employees come from the neighborhood, their wages can have dramatic multiplier effects throughout the community. Plus, supermarkets are neighborhood anchors, drawing in foot and vehicle traffic that spreads to other nearby businesses.
The benefits aren’t just economic. Studies show that having easier access to healthy food makes it more likely you’ll have a healthier diet. One study found that for every additional grocery store in a census tract, fruit and vegetable consumption among blacks went up 32 percent.
We’re already seeing this idea work on the ground in Pennsylvania. Since that program started in 2004, a $30 million state investment has helped develop 88 new or expanded fresh food outlets, leveraged $190 million in total project costs and created or saved more than 5,000 jobs. And, more than 400,000 people now have access to healthy food who didn’t before. Similar programs are in various stages of completion in Illinois, California, New Jersey, Louisiana and New York.
Congress should build on the experience and lessons learned from these state efforts. It’s time to invest in a national solution to this national problem. Ensuring easy access to healthy food is an investment that pays off in jobs today and healthy families tomorrow. Funding the Healthy Food Financing Initiative would be a big step in that direction.
Angela Glover Blackwell is founder and CEO of PolicyLink. Peter Larkin is president and CEO of the National Grocers Association.