The Food Marketing Institute has released of Access to Healthier Foods: Opportunities and Challenges for Food Retailers in Underserved Areas, a research resource exploring the barriers supermarkets commonly encounter when seeking to expand service into areas designated as “food deserts.” The paper also addresses factors that encourage store development in low access areas and cites some of the innovative ways supermarkets are increasing access to healthier food for residents in underserved areas.
“As an industry committed to feeding families and enriching lives, food retailers recognize the need to provide healthier food to underserved areas,” says Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer of FMI, “but long term success demands this be accomplished in fiscally and socially responsible ways. Overcoming the multiple hurdles inhibiting store development in areas deserving service requires the very best cooperative efforts of government, community and industry, and even then it takes time. Meanwhile, many food retailers have responded to the magnitude and immediacy of this problem by thinking beyond brick and mortar solutions, offering imaginative ways to improve access to healthier food.”
In May, FMI and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) co-hosted a conversation between federal government officials, representatives from several government agencies and members of the food retail industry regarding the national challenge of improving access to healthier food in underserved areas. This conversation served as the basis of the research FMI published in Access to Healthier Foods: Opportunities and Challenges for Food Retailers in Underserved Areas.
This industry resource explores the multiple supermarket development barriers including inadequate demographic base, high investment costs, high operating costs, food assistance program policies and many others. Due to these barriers, supermarkets are exploring alternative ideas, such as smaller store formats, expanded grocery delivery systems and enhanced transportation options. In addition, FMI research notes the factors helping advance food access initiatives, which include community development corporations (CDCs), financial incentives (i.e.: tax credits and grants), the support of local government, utilizing local champions and sharing success stories and ideas.