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PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works®. Founded in 1999, PolicyLink connects the work of people on the ground to the creation of sustainable communities of opportunity that allow everyone to participate and prosper. Such communities offer access to quality jobs, affordable housing, good schools, transportation, and the benefits of healthy food and physical activity.

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The Obama administration’s initiative to fight food deserts will help, not harm, mom-and-pop stores.Photo: arbyreedGary Nabhan and Kelly Watters are right that it will take a diversity of new and expanded fresh food stores to truly solve the crisis of inadequate access to healthy food in many low-income areas. Small grocery stores, farmers markets, and expanded convenience stores are all part of a comprehensive, sustainable solution to this challenge.

But Nabhan and Watters miss the mark significantly when they assert that the $330 million federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) — backed by the Obama administration and a bipartisan coalition in Congress — would attract only “full-service grocery franchises that heap upon our children megatons of empty calories.” That’s the opposite of what’s happening.

HFFI represents the federal government’s first coordinated step — with programs from the departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Agriculture — to promote a wide range of interventions that expand the supply of and demand for nutritious foods, including grocery stores, small retailers... Read more