Innovative Program Brings Fresh Groceries To Blighted Philadelphia Neighborhood

The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative is luring supermarkets to into urban locations in hopes of providing residents with healthier eating options that are largely absent from many inner-city neighborhoods.

"It seems that anyone you talk to in the streets around Progress Plaza, a tattered shopping center in a mainly black, poor part of North Philadelphia, is excited...soon a large Fresh Grocer supermarket is set to open here."

" "Everybody will be so happy to see a new store," said Anna Keller, a retired nurse's aide, as she took home a large bag of items from Popeyes, the fast-food chicken restaurant, in the plaza. "I know I'll eat better," she said, talking about the ready access to aisles of fresh produce and meats. "I know this greasy food is killing me." "

"Whether easy access to the bounties of a supermarket will actually transform eating habits remains to be seen, but the fight against obesity has become a major rationale, along with lower prices and the promotion of wider retail development, for efforts to bring supermarkets to what have been called the food deserts of poor urban areas.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has sponsored a before-and-after study of eating habits around the future supermarket here, looking especially to see if consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than chips and soda, will rise.

The new grocery store is part of a broader renovation of the plaza, aided by millions in public and private loans. The store was lured here by the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which has subsidized development of two dozen supermarkets in deprived urban and rural areas of Pennsylvania and is considered a national model. The Legislature put up seed money and joined forces with the Food Trust, a private group that promotes healthy diets, and the Reinvestment Fund, which marshals money for community development. The initiative provides cash grants of up to $250,000 and, sometimes, millions of dollars in loans to prospective supermarket developers."

Full Story: In Market, Hopes for Health and Urban Renewal

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