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NYC Coalition Supports Access to Affordable, Healthy Food

A growing list of health care and community organizations are working to ensure every New Yorker has access to affordable, healthy food. 

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As part of the Healthy Food Retail Action Network, AHA delivered the letter below* to Mayor de Blasio, key administration leaders, and City Council leaders, calling on them to prioritize access to healthy food in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, especially for neighborhoods that need it most. These proposals will help ensure equitable access to and the economic sustainability of healthy and affordable food retail in New York City. They will increase access to healthy foods, create jobs for people living in the neighborhood, create markets for farmers, and have the potential to lower health care costs.

*The list of signatories below is being updated on a rolling basis. If your organization would like to join the campaign, email alicia.johnson@heart.org.


Dear Mayor de Blasio,

As you prepare the Fiscal Year 2019 Executive Budget, we, the undersigned healthy food retail practitioners, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and policy makers, urge you to include $15 million additional for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentives; $10 million for a Healthy Food Financing Initiative to open or expand healthy food retail in underserved neighborhoods; and $3 million to support healthy corner store initiatives. This funding will build on many of your administration’s successes in alleviating health and economic inequity by putting more money in people’s pockets and addressing additional barriers to healthy food retail.

New York City is home to tens of thousands of food retail establishments: corner stores and supermarkets selling a range of grocery items to their communities. However, years of research shows that access to healthy food varies dramatically neighborhood to neighborhood.[i] 1.2 million residents of New York City live in lower income communities with limited access to healthy food retail (map enclosed).[ii] As members and supporters of the Healthy Food Retail Action Network, the only citywide coalition that brings together New Yorkers working to make healthy food available and affordable in low income areas, we understand the importance of city funding to ensure equitable access to and the economic sustainability of healthy and affordable food retail in New York City.

Commit $15 million additional for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentives to give New Yorkers more purchasing power to afford fresh fruits and vegetables by expanding programs such as Health Bucks. 1 in 5 New Yorkers receive SNAP benefits, which reduce food insecurity and help households rise out of poverty. SNAP incentives in the form of coupons or point-of-sale discounts can help people eat more fruits and vegetables and increase the quality of their diet. The city currently spends about $500,000 annually on Health Bucks and receives additional funds through the federal Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program. Given the success of this program and the risk of federal funding cuts, the city should dedicate an additional $15 million to not only to expand access to Health Bucks that can be used at farmer’s markets, but also to provide incentives at corner stores and supermarkets, or other retail venues that allow families to access these resources where they live and shop. We also look forward to seeing the outcomes of the city’s innovative Healthy Savings program launched earlier this year and hope that it can expand to additional neighborhoods.

Launch the first-ever Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) in New York City with a $10 million investment to help food establishments open, expand, and improve in neighborhoods that need food and jobs the most. While FRESH provides zoning and tax incentives for grocery stores to open or expand in underserved communities, an HFFI leverages both public and private funding to provide low-interest loans and grants specifically tailored for food establishments that may otherwise struggle to secure needed traditional capital, including supermarkets, grocery stores, co-ops, and farmers markets. When the State of New York invested $10 million in the Healthy Food and Healthy Communities Fund (HFHC Fund) from 2010 to 2016, it leveraged over $192 million in additional funding and created or preserved 200,130 square feet of healthy food retail space and 1,450 direct permanent and construction jobs. The city should invest in a local initiative that will increase access to healthy foods, create jobs for people in the neighborhood, create markets for farmers, and have the potential to lower health care costs.

Support healthy corner store initiatives, including Shop Healthy NYC and programs led by community-based organizations, with an additional $3 million to increase the amount of healthy food offered in corner stores in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Healthy corner store initiatives help stores educate their customers about the availability of healthy options. The city should fund initiatives that train and provide incentives such as grants and free equipment to corner store owners, so they make the commitment to provide healthier foods. In addition, they should explore sustainable procurement channels and engage residents and community-based organizations to make sure consumers are educated and stores promote and market the healthy items. Shop Healthy NYC is currently funded at $890,000 by DOHMH and the Center for Economic Opportunity and the city should commit an additional $3 million to meet the need in neighborhoods across the city.

Improving access to healthy food can revitalize local economies, create jobs, and improve the health of New Yorkers. We urge you to fund these new and expanded programs in the Fiscal Year 2019 Executive Budget.

Signed,

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American Diabetes Association
American Heart Association | American Stroke Association
Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association Inc. 
Beacon Christian Community Health Center
Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Bronx Health REACH / Institute for Family Health
BronxWorks
Children’s Aid 
Citizens’ Committee for Children
City Harvest
Common Threads
Community Food Action at New Settlement Apartments
Community Health Center of Richmond
Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City
CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute
Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation
Edible Schoolyard NYC
Equity Advocates
Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Teachers College Columbia University, Program in Nutrition
LISC NYC
Low Income Investment Fund
Make the Road New York
MomsRising
Montefiore Health System
New York League of Conservation Voters
NYS American Academy of Pediatrics, Chapters 2 & 3
Project Hospitality
Public Health Association of NYC
Public Health Solutions
Rockaway Waterfront Alliance
Rockaway Youth Task Force
South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation 
Staten Island Child Wellness Initiative 
Staten Island Neighborhood Food Initiative 
Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness
Staten Island Performing Provider System
Teens for Food Justice
The New York Academy of Medicine
Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, Inc.
Uptown Grand Central
Urban Health Plan
West Harlem Group Assistance, Inc.
Wholesome Wave
YMCA of Greater New York

CC:

Barbara Turk, Director of Food Policy
Matthew Klein, Executive Director, NYC Opportunity
Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, Commissioner, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Gregg Bishop, Commissioner, Department of Small Business Services
James Patchett, President and CEO, NYCEDC
Speaker Corey Johnson
Finance Committee Chair Daniel Dromm
Health Committee Chair Mark Levine
General Welfare Committee Chair Stephen Levin
Small Business Committee Chair Mark Gjonaj

[i] Bell J, Mora G, Hagan E, Rubin V, and Karpyn A. (2013) Access to Healthy Food and Why it Matters: A Review of the Research. PolicyLink. Oakland, California. Available at http://www.policylink.org/sites/default/files/GROCERYGAP_FINAL_NOV2013.pdf.

[ii] “Food Metrics Report 2017,” NYC Food Policy, 2017, p.32.

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