24 May 2012

Speech Highlights from the Healthy Food Financing Initiative Convening

On May 8, 2012, Kaiser Permanente's Center for Total Health hosted a convening of the first cohort of grantees under the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.

to start off my short remarks today by

just reflecting on a food story for me and my family and grocery stores kind of figure prominently in my family's life I have a grandfather on a Leo block that was in the food and mercantile industry and I don't know a much about him other than there was a period where he was on a pig farm which is a real big conservation to this Orthodox Jewish relatives I don't know how they figured that all out but I do know a lot about another my wife's grandfather actually got a charley Bramblett and I'm just there's I know some California people here is anybody from the inland empire by any chance okay so you probably don't know if bramblett's food bank but this is this huge chain grocery chain they had 33 grocery stores in Riverside and San Bernardino which is a place where there are still huge food deserts and hearing the stories about what that grocery store and that series of three grocery stores meant to the people there I think really kind of is emblematic of what the work is that you're all all about and I just wanted to kind of reflect on that for a moment cuz it helps me understand the depth of the movement that you're all you're all

working in so firstly it was a source of jobs for people in Riverside and San Bernardino County including a guy who was going to become my father a lot at one point who came with his family from the Dust Bowl from West Virginia very poor he got a job at the food bank that food bank gave jobs to dozens of kids from San Marino high school their first jobs were in shelving the the food and being a clerk and whatnot and not only that but there you know many many people that had really well paid jobs that became that you know head of the butcher department that the produce department there were many many families in San Bernardino Riverside whose livelihood was really solidified by the food bank and there were employees for 25 30 35 years and is a really important part of the economic vitality of that community the other thing and I kind of gotten this from talking to Charlie before he died that source was a place of Community Connections it was a place like that cheers thing where everybody knows your name you were known as a patron of the food bank and people looked out out after you if you were short on pay if

your job went away there was a you know some accounting that was done and they let you slide for a little bit which apparently create a lot of conflict between Charlie and his wife Alice I think secretly she was really supporting that and so so it was a really familiar place in one portal to an accountability standpoint and you didn't like the produce that you got if you had a bad experience of when the checkers Charlie heard about it or his wife heard about it and there was that Robin was fixed so there was a level of accountability and respect and connection that was was really really important and the other thing is if any of you know about kind of California history that part of California in the 40s and 50s all through the 70s was rancheros and citrus gardens is before citrus farms it was before these ridiculous freeways it was before sprawl and I think the food bank and the dozens hundreds of small retailers who had direct relationship to the growers it was a really important very vibrant system that created great local healthy food for those retail outlets and for the eaters in those places as well as a source of

sustainability economic sustainability for the farms and the farm communities that were you know a couple of miles away and it was just vision on that of a system that we can't have and that we you know kenhub again so anyway I just share that because you know I think we all can i connect to this stuff personally and that has kind of been my understanding of what the possibilities are for the healthy food retail movements that you're all part of the idea is how can we drive an equity agenda in the United States that those constituency around healthy eating active living but from the vantage point of bringing in Economic Development Community Economic Development sustainability how do we create a field of deals where we're kind of connecting all of these constituencies that at the heart are about healthy people in healthy places and an equity and the healthy food financing initiative is a sweet spot for that about four and a half years ago there was all this data coming out at the Pennsylvania fresh food financing initiative that was exciting many of us and we were thinking how is it that we could really put wind

under the sales of healthy food financing in many many more states and we asked policy link and reinvestment fund and and the Food Trust to kind of help us think through what is a poly policy development strategy were able to get that into some transition documents that were prepared for the incoming administration a couple budget cycles later there was budget for it and it was really exciting to see this idea really be able to get into a budget get into administration policy and this big idea to happen and and I think that was a really exciting moment for us to see a very concrete manifestation of a really big idea which is to kind of connect all these thoughts and really create a broader agenda that has Public Health and civil rights and economic development and inequity right in the middle of it so that is what the healthy food financing work is to us and I know that's what it's about to you too but the other thing that is really cool about this work I know that we had some federal partners here this morning and maybe they're still with us but there is a big idea around having HHS and USDA and Treasury all connecting

around this health in all policies idea which is a very big idea that a lot of us are talking about and it's kind of ethereal and when it lands in something as concrete that means as much to people as a healthy food retail in places that don't have it that really makes manifest with what the promise can be it is a really important thing for us to have when we're talking about this big idea about health in all policies I I was very fortunate to to be involved as you heard when I was a state senator with representative Dwight Evans our districts overlapped and if you from a few of you so you know west oakland it was in the fourth senatorial district joined evans and wisdom and economic revitalization plan for for west oakland and and really say okay what we need to do to help make sure that we get the kind of stores revitalize community and then I think coming to some point analyzing later it there are no supermarkets anywhere we have and we need to do something about that and to his credit he deserves a lot of credit really push through this healthy food financing plan which I things started with 30 million dollars and let's have

seen from the state level of a lot of money but some it not a lot of money in other context but working with the private sector this is truly a public-private partnership helping to incentivize have financed the location of supermarkets in in Philadelphia but now also and under served food deserts all across the state and just enormous success in Pennsylvania just within five years certain out 88 new or improved fresh fruit at retail outlets that's pretty standing around I think anyone would have predicted that kind of success in just five years it has created or attained with 5,000 jobs we clear about that its economy obviously but it has increased access to healthy food for four hundred thousand residents across the Commonwealth really astounding and the project's totaled 190 million dollars so real investment using public dollars to stimulate this kind of investment in some of our communities and you've seen it's in an other kind of economic investment as well