The U.S. Healthy-Food Crisis

man shoppingWith the United States topping the world?s obesity charts ? the most current figures of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development show 30.6 percent of the U.S. population is ?obese? ? U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. says it will allocate some of its New Markets Tax Credit investments to projects that increase the availability of healthy, affordable food in high-need urban and rural communities. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 23 million people currently live in low-income communities that do not have access to a supermarket or a large grocery store within one mile of their home.

Administered by the Treasury Department?s Community? Development Financial Institu-tions Fund (CDFI Fund), the New Markets Tax Credit Program seeks to attract private investment to distressed communities by providing a tax credit to corporate or individual taxpayers who make qualified equity investments in designated community development entities, or CDEs. The CDEs, in turn, invest the capital raised in projects and businesses in low-income communities.

?While we are proud to have a strong record of investing in projects that promote healthy outcomes, we agree that there should be broader effort to invest in businesses that will address this issue,? says Matt Philpott, director of New Markets, Historic and Renewable Energy Tax Credit Investments for U.S. Bancorp CDC. A subsidiary of U.S. Bank, USBCDC touts a history of supporting projects that focus on healthy living and food-oriented businesses, including a Fresh Grocer in an African-American owned shopping center in North Philadelphia, Penn.

The bank?s commitment is in line with the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a partnership of the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Treasury that provides financial and technical assistance to CDEs, CDFIs, other nonprofits and businesses with sound strategies for addressing the needs of communities that currently lack nutritious options. Philpott says U.S. Bancorp CDC bank will work with partners nationwide, leveraging the resources of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to accomplish its affordable healthy-food goals.

Alarming obesity and chronic disease rates in urban communities are an ongoing concern for African-Americans, health and nonhealth professionals alike. In July, for example, the African American Forum, General Electric Co.?s first affinity network, organized a one-day community outreach event titled ?Healthy Minds … Healthy Bodies … Healthy Communities? that brought together health agencies and organizations and 350 Baltimore youth to focus on healthy-living values. The event, part of GE?s 20th Annual Global Diversity Symposium that the forum hosted, featured activities at several sites in Baltimore, including the Carmelo Anthony Center, People?s Community Health Center, Chase Brexton Health, Big City Farms and Real Food Farm Services.?

?In today?s society, more than ever, it is critical to equip our youth on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle,? Robert Jones, forum member and co-leader for the event for GE, said at the time. ?We are grateful to the GE Foundation for starting this initiative last fall by providing grants to two Baltimore-based community health centers in an effort to increase access to quality health care.?

Event activities included kung fu demonstrations by seven-time world champion Willie ?The Bam? Johnson, GE?s Bee Healthy Exercise Course, Zumba, health-screening stations, cooking demonstrations and oral screenings conducted by the Deamonte Driver Dental Project. The University of Maryland Baltimore Office of Policy and Planning joined in with a Breath Mobile and Well Mobile to promote healthy living.