Grocery Shopping

Californians may have just spotted a gem amidst the rubble of America’s crumbling economy: The California FreshWorks Fund is a $200 million public-private partnership aimed at increasing healthy and affordable food for the state’s most challenged communities.

Working directly with grocers to increase and upgrade the places where low-income communities can access healthy food, the California FreshWorks Fund was unveiled by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House last week. Obama worked with the USDA earlier this year to develop a map of America’s “food deserts”—areas with limited access to fresh foods and disproportionate numbers of fast food restaurants, ‘mini-marts’ and other places typically heavy on processed food and scarce on fresh fruits or vegetables.  The interactive map indicated some 13 million Americans live in these food desert areas, which Obama sees as a factor in the rising rates of obesity and other diet-related illnesses, especially among children.

The fund is expected to create nearly 6,000 jobs in the state, and businesses will be on a points system, earning more as they decrease access to unhealthy foods, by eliminating junk food aisles and items such as cigarettes. Qualifying grocery stores and food retailers will receive financial support from the fund in order to help move designated healthy foods to the forefront of purchases for their communities.

According to Al Plamann, CEO of Unified Grocers, “While everyone agrees that it will take many years to provide all Californians with easy access to healthy, affordable foods, FreshWorks is positioned to make significant progress in the years ahead and, in partnership with strong independent grocers, I am confident that the program will be one of the most successful in the country.”

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image: John Flinchbaugh