For those of us who live within walking distance or a short drive from multiple grocery stores, the idea of not having access to fresh produce is almost impossible to imagine.
Yet there are people throughout the United States for whom the distance to fresh fruits and vegetables is prohibitive. Without access in what are called ‘food deserts,’ they simply go without. For more than 1 million California residents, access to fresh produce is more than a 20-minute drive from their homes.
Residents living in food deserts have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many other chronic illnesses than those in neighborhoods where healthy food is easily accessible. Bringing permanent sources of fresh foods such as supermarkets into food desert communities can significantly improve healthy food access for residents for the long-term. One innovative collaboration is looking at ways to make these improvements a reality.
The California FreshWorks Fund is a unique public-private partnership loan fund created in 2011 to bring greater access to healthy foods in underserved communities, spur economic development that supports healthy communities, and inspire innovation in healthy food retailing.
In just three years, they’ve made great strides. Access to fresh produce — in some cases at farmers markets — has improved throughout the state, with neighborhoods that include Long Beach, Inglewood, Compton and West Oakland, among others.