VOICES for Alabama’s Children and ADECA Announce Funding and New Partnerships to Implement Healthy Food Financing Program

VOICES for Alabama’s Children, the Office of Senator Greg Reed, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and the Walker Area Community Foundation Continue Efforts to Bring Healthy Food Closer to Home for Everyone in Alabama

Article ID: 646304

Released: 19-Jan-2016 11:05 AM EST

Source Newsroom: Voices for Healthy Kids

  • Credit: Fahrenheit Creative

    Healthy food access press event in Cordova, Alabama

Newswise — CORDOVA – VOICES for Alabama’s Children was joined by the Office of Senate Majority Leader, Greg Reed (R – Jasper), the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), and the Walker Area Community Foundation at a press conference Thursday at the Piggly Wiggly in Cordova to announce ADECA’s commitment to set aside new funds and partner with a certified community development financial institution (CDFI) to support the implementation of Alabama’s Healthy Food Financing Program.

Last May, the Alabama Legislature passed the Healthy Food Financing Act, establishing a statewide revolving loan program that will incentivize development, renovation and expansion of grocery stores and other fresh food retailers in communities with limited access to fresh, healthy food. Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R – Jasper) sponsored the legislation in the Senate that provides “a tremendous opportunity to expand fresh, healthy food for people in every county” and “create local jobs.”

“Walker County is a great example of the significant impact grocery stores can have on a community,” said Sen. Reed. “The development of new grocery stores to replace those destroyed by the tornadoes of 2011 has improved access to fresh, healthy food for people throughout the county and stimulated the economy by creating stable, good-paying jobs. We are confident the Healthy Food Financing Program can create similar results in counties all over the state that are looking for an economic boost and a stepping stone to healthier residents.”

ADECA will administer the revolving fund, which will help create jobs and bolster local economies as grocery stores and other fresh food retailers develop, renovate or expand. A similar program in Pennsylvania resulted in 5,000 new or retained jobs through 88 fresh food retail projects.

ADECA Director Jim Byard Jr. announced Thursday that Gov. Robert Bentley has reserved $400,000 through the Appalachian Regional Commission - one of ADECA’s federal partner programs that covers 37 north Alabama counties - for a partnership with Pathway Lending, a community development financial institution that will make loans more easily accessible for businesses in rural areas of the 37-county ARC region. Pathway Lending will give special consideration to grocers and retailers that meet the regulations set forth by the Healthy Food Financing Act.

Byard said that while the CDFI partnership is in process, the department manages several programs that can offer immediate assistance, including the State Small Business Credit Initiative loan program, the Community Development Block Grant program and the Alabama SAVES energy loan program.

“The impact grocery stores have on local economies is tremendous -- creating jobs, increasing property value and generating more revenue for municipalities,” Byard said. “This program is another tool to increase economic development in communities that need a boost.”

Currently, more than 1.8 million Alabamians, including nearly half a million children, live in areas with limited access to grocers and other fresh food retailers. According to a report, Food for Every Child: The Need for Healthy Food Financing in Alabama, commissioned by VOICES for Alabama's Children and conducted by a national food access organization, The Food Trust, every county in the state of Alabama has at least one neighborhood with limited access to grocers and other fresh food retailers.

“The seed funding for healthy food financing program is a huge step in the right direction to increase access to healthy foods for children and families throughout the state,” said Melanie R. Bridgeforth, executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children. “We want to make sure state leaders from the public and private sectors understand the importance of supporting this program with diverse funding streams. By leveraging public and private resources, we can ensure the program sustainability and begin to improve public health in every part of our state.”

Healthy food financing initiatives are proven components of comprehensive public health models that help combat some of the severe and costly obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Alabama’s adult hypertension rate is second in the nation, and the state has the fourth highest rate of adult diabetes. Reversing these negative health trends can position the state to save over $3 billion in obesity-related health care costs by 2020.

“The philanthropic community’s support has been critical to the success of healthy food financing programs in other states, and we are committed to ensuring Alabama’s program is successful, too,” said Paul W. Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation. “Improving access to fresh, healthy foods is a solid first step in improving the health of children and families in Alabama, and the public-private partnership model will be a key to ensuring the sustainability of these ongoing efforts throughout the state.”

Healthy food financing initiatives are proven components of comprehensive public health models that help combat some of the severe and costly obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Alabama’s adult hypertension rate is second in the nation, and the state has the fourth highest rate of adult diabetes. Reversing these negative health trends can position the state to save over $3 billion in obesity-related health care costs by 2020.

“The philanthropic community’s support has been critical to the success of healthy food financing programs in other states, and we are committed to ensuring Alabama’s program is successful, too,” said Paul W. Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation. “Improving access to fresh, healthy foods is a solid first step in improving the health of children and families in Alabama, and the public-private partnership model will be a key to ensuring the sustainability of these ongoing efforts throughout the state.”

The Food for Every Child report noted that every county in state has at least one area with limited access to fresh, healthy foods. A growing body of research indicates that people who live in communities without a supermarket suffer from disproportionately high rates of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related health problems.

VOICES for Alabama’s Children, the Alabama Grocers Association, the American Heart Association along with over 50 state and national partners launched the healthy food access campaign in Alabama in early 2013, seeking to raise awareness about the growing concern of childhood obesity and its relationship to food access. All three organizations remain committed to continue the work that was started two years ago to bring healthy food closer to home for everyone in Alabama.

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