Finance Fund Study Highlights Need For Healthy Food Financing In Ohio

A recent study from Finance Fund highlights the need for a statewide financing program in Ohio that would encourage the development of healthy food retail in the communities that need it most. Findings from the study, titled “Food for Every Child: The Need for Healthy Food Financing in Ohio,” indicate that, “more than half a million children in Ohio live in lower-income communities underserved by supermarkets.” A public health crisis has emerged as food retailers disinvest from low-income communities; close to one million Ohioans are faced with a combination of crippling issues including high incidence of diet-related death, low-income, and insufficient access to supermarkets and fresh food, especially produce. According to “Ohio’s Plan to Prevent and Reduce Chronic Disease: 2014-2018,” prepared by the Ohio Department of Health, “…chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are the leading causes of death and disability in Ohio. Associated risk factors such as obesity, tobacco use, inactivity and poor nutrition are driving more than $50 billion annually in healthcare costs and lost work productivity.”

Although increasing access to healthy and affordable food in neighborhoods with a high incidence of diet-related illness does not ensure any diminution of those illnesses, doing so marks a crucial first step toward encouraging the consumption of nutritious foods and curtailing the effects of diet-related disease. Several other states, including Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois, have already created healthy food financing programs to great success, improving access to healthy food while also creating new jobs and enhancing economic vitality in distressed neighborhoods. In Ohio, Cincinnati has established the Cincinnati Fresh Food Retail Financing Fund, which was, “…seeded with $15 million of local government investment over three years, to support the development of grocery stores and other healthy food retail in Cincinnati.” A statewide program can bring Cincinnati’s success to the rest of Ohio.

A recent blog post by Kimberly Scher, Executive Vice President of Communications and Development at Finance Fund, indicates that Finance Fund will spearhead efforts to create a statewide fund and is currently, “talking with stakeholders statewide to better understand the barriers and address the policies that are keeping healthy food providers from serving markets where there is greatest need.” For more information about Finance Fund’s efforts on this matter and to learn how you can help, visit their website.

Working Group(s): 
Community Food Assessment