Friday, February 8, 2013

Colorado Health Foundation Commits $7 Million to Eliminate Food Deserts

Photo by Joe Amon

By Michael Booth, The Denver Post

Frustrated by lack of progress in the obesity fight, one of the nation's richest health charities will pay to build better stores and buy greener groceries itself, if it has to.

The Colorado Health Foundation has set aside $7.1 million for a loan-and-grant fund aimed at grocery stores and retail developers that need a subsidy to supply more nutritious goods in "food deserts."

Grocers in underserved urban or rural areas could draw from the fund to expand produce sections, build on a blighted block or create urban produce greenhouses.

The foundation's plan is the first check written on a long-pursued mission by state leaders to fight obesity with access to healthier food and is modeled on national programs tested in other states. The foundation,built over the years from sales of some of Denver's largest hospitals and now holding $2.2 billion in assets, is talking with other foundations about enlarging the fund.

Grocers and developers say it is hard to find financing for expansion projects in lower-income areas. They also risk losing more money if they stock perishable produce and pricier nutritious items, and buyers' eating habits don't change.

But civic, state and health- care leaders say the problem is dire, with Colorado's once-admirable obesity rates climbing and health gaps growing between low- and high-income residents.

For the rest of the story, go to The Denver Post.

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