White House Pitches $400M for Healthier Neighborhood Food Outlets

The connection between walkable development and grocery shopping may not seem immediately apparent — until you consider studies conducted
in cities from Austin to Seattle that showed the share of trips taken
by foot or by transit rises as local food outlets move closer to
residential areas.

31193700_386561bcbd.jpgThe
White House budget envisions a new investment in urban farmers markets’
such as this one, which served D.C.’s low-income Anacostia area for two
years. (Photo: DC Food for All)

Even in transit-rich New York, a highly touted new Costco is laying off employees as shoppers avoid its not-too-walkable location. On the flip side, farmers’ markets are seeing new growth and serving more lower-income shoppers in Milwaukee, Oakland, and other areas.

Now the White House is getting in on the action, with $400 million included in
its fiscal year 2011 budget to support development of new food outlets
in urban communities where the nearest grocery store is often a
half-mile or more away — the neighborhoods that policymakers call "food deserts."

The White House proposal is modeled after a Pennsylvania effort that has steered more
than $57 million in grants and loans to develop 74 local food markets
in lower-income areas of the state. The Obama administration’s version
would be anchored by $250 million in New Market Tax Credits, which give
developers incentive to launch new projects in economically distressed
areas.

While the $400 million budget plan is not being
directed through the U.S. DOT, it could have a significant upside for
urban transportation officials looking to improve access to transit and
create new opportunities for walkability.