A National Conversation: Improving Access to Healthy Foods
Tuesday, May 8th marked the first national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Convening, “A National Conversation on Improving Access to Healthy Foods.” This Convening marked the first gathering of HFFI grantees and other stakeholders working to improve access to healthy food in underserved communities across the country.
Organized by PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and The Reinvestment Fund, this one-day meeting brought together these change makers from across the country to Washington, DC to build a community of practice, discuss challenges, and share innovations. The grantees represented a range of innovative projects from grocery stores, to farmers’ markets, co-ops, urban agriculture, and food hubs – serving urban, rural and tribal communities. Participants shared a variety of innovative models, some were co-locating with community kitchens, others with community health clinics, farms, and/or restaurants.
The leadership was diverse by both geography and race. Other topics discussed were the concept of long-term sustainability through the development of local food systems, financial resources for healthy food projects, how to ensure community and stakeholder engagement, and the use of data and evaluation in food access work.
Representative Allyson Schwartz, a champion and sponsor of the House HFFI legislation, set the policy context for HFFI. Loel Solomon from Kaiser Permanente provided a broad context explaining why access to healthy food is so important and shared what Kaiser, as a major health care institution, is doing to improve access to healthy food. (See videos of both speeches here.)
That afternoon, grantees visited the House and Senate where they met with their Senator and/or Representative and had the opportunity to tell their stories, provide updates about efforts in their communities, and discuss the challenges they face. Members were thrilled to have a touch of home in their office and hear about these great efforts in their state.
It was a great Lifting up What Works® experience, with both trailblazers in local communities discussing innovative strategies alongside the voice of experienced leaders, all sharing their wisdom and experience in what was a true co-learning environment. We look forward to the building of a community of practice amongst this group working to improve access to healthy food.
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