Access to healthy, affordable food has received a lot of attention over the past few years, thanks in part to the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative.  Through federal funding, the initiative serves as a viable, effective, and economically sustainable solution to the issue of limited access to healthy, affordable food.  Within South Carolina, the SC Community Loan Fund’s healthy food financing works to reduce health disparities and improve the health of individuals and children; create jobs; and stimulate local economic development in low-income neighborhoods.

Reducing Health Disparities
South Carolina ranks high in many negative diet-related health indices, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  According to America’s Health Rankings, South Carolina ranks 46th as the least healthiest state in the nation.  The burden of these health indices weighs heavily among the low-income population of the state.  The state’s Eat Smart Move More initiative reports that more than one in every four low-income children ages 2-5 are overweight or obese, and that three of every five adults are either overweight or obese.

Individuals who reside in food deserts (low-income census tracts where people live more than one mile from a supermarket or grocery store; in rural areas, the distance extends to ten miles) face unprecedented challenges regarding personal diet.  The abundance of fast food restaurants and convenience stores, compared to the scarce availability of healthy food options, limits personal intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.  By increasing access to healthy food options, residents of food deserts and low-income neighborhoods will improve their overall health and lifestyle.

Economic Opportunities
Low-income neighborhoods located in food deserts often do not benefit from economic development opportunities that arise when grocery stores and healthy food retail outlets are present.  These neighborhoods often have high levels of grocery retail leakage, a term that refers to the amount of money spent on groceries outside of a community.  South Carolinians residing in food deserts spend an estimated $310 M in neighboring communities, not their own.  These neighborhoods are capable of supporting 529,000 square feet of grocery retail, which directly translates into jobs, transportation cost savings, citizen engagement, economic development, and increased tax base.

CLF’s Solutions
In 2011, CLF was one of twelve organizations nationally to receive a $500,000 Healthy Food Financing Initiative award from the U.S. Treasury Department CDFI Fund.  This funding will be used to help increase food access to underserved communities across South Carolina.  Additionally, CLF is bringing national, state, and local leaders to the table to address food deserts and food insecurities across the state.

For more information on CLF’s Healthy Food Financing program, please contact Anna Hamilton at anna@sccommunityloanfund.org.