Affordable, fresh food is a critical ingredient of a healthy community and one of the keys to upending chronic, nutrition-related diseases like obesity and diabetes that plague impoverished neighborhoods. But many low-income people, especially those who live in food deserts, face serious hurdles in getting access to good food. LISC has long invested in grocery stores and other food outlets in the neighborhoods where we work, not only to improve nutrition and health, but as a way to spark commercial revitalization and job creation. We also support a tapestry of programs in sites around the country that aim to make nutritious food easier for people to buy, cook and eat.
To date, LISC has invested $184 million in 98 healthy food projects in urban and rural communities from coast to coast–including supermarkets, farmers’ markets, community gardens and food coops. Since 2012 we have received $12 million from the U.S. Treasury’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative to make this work go further, especially in markets that most lenders consider too risky to touch.
We offer low-cost loans for the development of healthy food retail outlets in food deserts. Projects have included a farmers market in Flint, MI and full-service grocery stores in high poverty neighborhoods from Chicago to Brockton, MA.
We support nutrition education that encourages people to buy and eat healthier food, as well as incentives to make those purchases more likely, such as with a Detroit program that doubles the amount of fruits and vegetables customers can buy with SNAP dollars.
We also back healthy food production through community gardens and greenhouses, and food entrepreneurship, whereby low-income people can train for jobs and incubate food-related business ideas.