The Healthy Food for Ohio (HFFO) program was allocated $200K in House Bill 49, the State of Ohio’s biennial budget bill. With Ohio facing a $1 billion deficit and no legislative support for tax increases to address the revenue shortfall, AHA and its coalition partners including the Finance Fund, Food Trust, Ohio Grocers Association and the American Diabetes Association were able to secure funding for this crucial program. Hundreds of organizations received massive cuts and elimination of programs in this budget cycle, yet with a strong coalition, the members persevered to garner funding despite the financial picture in Ohio.
One particular story resonated with legislators. The fact that Vinton County in Ohio has had no grocery store since 2013. With $2 million allocated in the previous state budget, funds were used to assist a local grocer to break ground for a family-owned grocery store in March of this year. Campbell’s Market is scheduled to open in August 2017 to coincide with the beginning of the new school year.
In addition, “Operation Fruit Drop” was implemented as legislators were sifting through the thousands of budget requests. A postcard highlighting the reasons to support HFFO with a piece of fruit was distributed by AHA staff and volunteers as legislators were in the final weeks of deliberation. Coalition letters, email alerts from volunteers and numerous personal legislative visits all kept the issue at the forefront in the budget process.
While not the millions in needed funding desired for underserved areas in Ohio, $200k illustrates that HFFO is an important program worthy of continued investment. We fully plan to build upon that amount in the future.