Atlanta Community Food Bank wins grant to help low-income folks buy fresh produce

By David Pendered

The Atlanta Community Food Bank has received a grant of $250,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help low-income folks buy more fruits and vegetables. The funding is likely to help offset the impact of a food desert that stretches across a swath of  Atlanta – an area where fresh produce can be hard to find.

carver neighborhood market

Carver Neighborhood Market, in south Atlanta, is working with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to provide two-for-one fresh produce items to SNAP card participants in an effort to help improve their diet. Credit: patch.com

The food bank plans to use the money to provide two-for-one incentives on fresh produce in current community partner locations, including Wayfield Foods, Community Farmers Market, and Carver Neighborhood Market, spokesperson Chaundra Luckett said in an email Thursday.

The program is open to recipients of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program who use their electronic benefits transfer cards.

“We will also launch the GOFA [Georgia Food Oasis-Atlanta] Initiative Fresh Pass Outreach Program to offer $5 off a $10 SNAP fresh produce purchase coupon,” Luckett said. “We are working to improve the network of farmers markets, produce stands, and neighborhood markets that offer affordable, fresh produce and nutrition education in under-served target neighborhoods.”

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor, noted the need to improve nutrition available in certain neighborhoods. The U.S.D.A. awarded a total of $16.8 million in grants nationwide.

“These grants help provide low-income families with the resources they need to consume more nutritious food,” Perdue said in a statement.

Most of Atlanta’s neighborhoods located south of Buckhead are identified as low income, with low access to grocery stores that provide healthy food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. File (2015)/Credit: usda.gov

“These grants help provide low-income families with the resources they need to consume more nutritious food,” Perdue said. “This builds on the successes of health-related incentives, with many of the projects being conducted at farmers markets. At the same time, we’re also helping to strengthen local and regional food systems.”

A governmental review of the food bank’s grant application shows the $250,000 is to provided in the first of two years the program is to operate. It is a new grant.

One objective of the program is to increase the number shops that sell fresh, healthy food, be it in a traditional farmers market, produce stand or retail location in neighborhoods that have poor access to fresh produce.

The U.S.D.A. reported in March 2015 that residents of neighborhoods south of Buckhead tend to have low incomes, low access to a supermarket, and low access to vehicles to get to a grocery store.

This triple whammy facilitates a diet that typically is short on fresh fruit and vegetables, and long on goods that often are high in salt and fat. In addition, the lack of adequate sidewalks and parks results in residents getting less exercise than they should, past studies have shown.

Food desert: Low vehicle access

The areas shaded in purple are those in which more than 100 households don’t have access to a vehicle and are located more than a half-mile from a supermarket. File (2015)/Credit: usda.gov.

The food bank’s grant application has high hopes the new program can help shift the balance in food-desert neighborhoods. The two-for-one program should boost foot traffic through partner stores that are to stock fresh produce:

  • “In 2016, 225,000 people visited GFOA, CFM, and FCS/Carver Market. We anticipate 265,000 people visiting GFOA and listed partner market and retail locations in 2017. According to historical data, we estimate that SNAP sales will account for at least 25 to 35 percent of sales at GFOA and partner market and retail locations.”
  • The program will, “Provide additional incentives to increase awareness and outreach about SNAP incentive programs to drive customers to fresh produce access points. Attract SNAP eligible customers into retail outlets that provide fresh, healthy, and affordable produce. SNAP eligible customers will redeem incentive cards/coupons distributed at outreach events. This will reduce the cost-barrier that is associated with healthy eating, and result in healthier eating habits.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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