19 Dec

The Food Trust Spotlight

The Food Trust is a nationally recognized nonprofit founded in 1992 and based in Philadelphia. The Food Trust works with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers in the city and across the country to develop a comprehensive approach to improved food access that combines nutrition education and greater availability of affordable, healthy food.

What makes The Food Trust unique is their ability to work on programs, policy and research simultaneously. They work to enhance access to and build demand for healthier food though innovative programing and policy and are dedicated to ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions.

The Food Trust incorporates geospatial techniques whenever it enhances their programming and research. Their initial geospatial project was completed in 2001 which looked at how food access varied and if low-income residents were disproportionately affected by limited food access. Amy Hillier was the GIS consultant on this project.

In 1999, the Food Trust worked with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) to obtain citywide mortality data. PDPH and the Food Trust worked with physicians to identify mortality codes believed to be related to diet. Annual supermarket retail sales data was provided by Trade Dimensions (a Westport, CT vendor that provides data on supermarket and convenience store location, size of store and sales). The study also included demographic data from the 1990 Census.

These datasets were combined using raster-based techniques to identify areas with high or low supermarket sales, low income, and a high incidence of diet-related deaths. The report found that access to food is unevenly distributed in the city and that low-income residents are disproportionately affected by limited food access. In many of the same communities that lack adequate access to supermarkets, low-income residents are more likely to suffer from diet-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. These areas became an important consideration when determining policy-based solutions.

These efforts resulted in the creation of an evidence-based report. A task force was brought together to make recommendations based on this information. The task force produced a subsequent report that served as the basis of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, the nation’s first statewide financing program to increase supermarket development in underserved areas. This strategy has been successful in other states and has become a Federal program.

The Food Trust also runs programs in schools, corner stores, farmers markets and supermarkets, while advocating for policy change and conducting research on how best to increase access to healthy foods. These programs include the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, a Farmers Market program, a Nutrition Education program and youth leadership programs aimed at empowering young people to be agents for healthy change. Their Center for Healthy Food Access is a national collaborative effort supporting healthy food access in underserved rural and urban communities.

The Healthy Corner Store Initiative, includes a network of bodegas, small stores, convenience stores and mom-and-pops working toward healthy change for their customer base. Last month, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative team was considering different programming locations and made a map of the retail environment in Philadelphia with some census attributes, schools and the high-risk zip codes that the health department has identified.

Last year, the Food Trust wanted to understand how far people were willing to travel to various food retail establishments like grocery stores, farmers markets and prepared food stores. GIS was used to extract the latitude and longitude of the cross streets where participants live and the shopping points they identified so that the Euclidean distance between the points could be measured.

Recently, the Food Trust has been working to enhance the accuracy of the 2001 Healthy Food Financing Initiative model at the regional and state level.

To learn more about the Food Trust, click here.

Written by Danielle Bayer