Philly program gets national props

When speaking about economic development that revitalizes and nourishes communities in challenging times, there's junk options like casinos and stadiums and then there's real and transformative efforts like Philly's Fresh Food Financing Initiative:

Called the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, the program has combined state funding with private money and the expertise of two Philly-based nonprofit entities to develop more than 60 food markets in under-served communities across Pennsylvania.

In Philadelphia alone, it has brought eight supermarkets (six open, two coming soon), and has funded improvements at more than two dozen smaller stores so that they can sell fresh fruits and vegetables.

The initiative has opened and expanded food stores across the state, but its brain trust is Philadelphia-based.

The program was aimed at addressing two related developments: the disappearance of supermarkets from struggling communities and the inner city, and studies showing a host of health problems among the poor related to too much soda, chips, and fast food and not enough fresh anything within shopping distance.

It's a wonderful program combining the brains, vision and passion of the Reinvestment Fund and the Food Trust with the heavyweight political clout of Dwight Evans (who has a few brains, vision and passion of his own). More important, it's a concrete successful contrast to the tired and recycled ideas of the past and the exploitation and degeneration of the city through predatory gambling.

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