Making Traction: The Farm Bill and Healthy Food Access
Healthy food advocates across the nation are celebrating a significant milestone within the context of the recently passed Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, more commonly known as the Farm Bill. The Senate recently approved full authorization and discretionary funding toward the establishment of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). HFFI attracts investment in underserved communities by providing critical loan and grant financing to retailers, farmer’s markets, food hubs, and other food outlets. Authorization of this innovative program helps to bring affordable healthy food to low-income urban and rural neighborhoods, where access to healthy foods is hard to come by. Food access advocates believe this is a direct link to the higher instances of diet-related diseases in these communities such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Better access to healthy food also means more grocery stores, farmers’ markets, urban agriculture, food hubs and job creation in these underserved areas, and across the country. Politically, this was not an easy win, as advocates have been working diligently for decades to see a federal program that addresses food access needs in low-income areas and communities of color. In case you’re curious about the voting record on the bill, you can check out a summary here.
While there are several other critical concerns for low-income communities that still need to be addressed in the bill, such as decreased funding for Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), we are excited to see authorization of a much needed food access program within USDA.
Working to help eliminate food deserts and underserved areas by making healthy food options available to all, brings new opportunity to communities that are in critical need. The health of a population is dependent on quality food access, and healthy, affordable food builds strong neighborhoods and reinvigorates the economy. An effective Farm Bill can help lay the framework for food equity and expanded economic opportunity, and we fully support the Senate’s inclusion of this dynamic program. The Senate has acted, and now all eyes are on the House of Representatives. Voting is expected to take place some time during the week of July 9th, and your legislator needs to hear from you—tell them that HFFI is a priority and should be included in the Farm Bill.