FEED DC Act
Many low-income areas of the District are considered “food deserts” – residents of these areas do not have enough access to healthy foods. Increasing the number of full-service grocery stores and corner stores selling healthy foods is an important strategy for turning food deserts into oases with opportunities to buy healthy foods.
The FEED (Food, Environment, and Economic Development) Act (pdf), passed, in 2010 aims to close the grocery gap and capture those opportunities while also enabling more District residents to eat a healthy diet. According to Councilmember Cheh’s office, the Act has three goals: (1) to improve access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods; (2) to encourage green technology in food stores; and (3) to create good jobs in areas with very high levels of unemployment.
The FEED DC Act brings to the District the kind of innovation that is taking hold in Pennsylvania, New York City, New Orleans, and a growing number of other cities and states. In addition to creating incentives to draw full-service grocery stores to low-income “food deserts,” FEED DC created and provides funding for a Healthy Food Retail Program, which helps small grocers (“corner stores”) sell fresh produce and other healthy foods.
What’s happening in D.C.
For full-service grocery stores, FEED DC builds on the District’s existing Supermarket Tax Exemption (and more narrowly targets that exemption) to create a package of incentives and assistance for new grocery store developments and for grocery store renovations in lower-income parts of the city. Specifically, the Act:
- Sets up a structure for grants and loans to eligible grocery store projects (both new developments and renovations to existing stores), awarded on a competitive basis.
- Designates a “grocery ambassador” in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development office to help grocers navigate through the bureaucratic hurdles of opening new stores.
- Allows for density bonuses and other zoning flexibility for eligible grocery store developments.
- Creates a fast-track permitting and review process for eligible grocery store developments.
- Directs the D.C. Department of the Environment to develop and promote energy efficiency resources to help grocers lower their operating costs.
The Healthy Food Retail Program, housed in the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) a Healthy Food Retail Program, provides assistance to: existing corner stores seeking to sell fresh produce and healthy foods; farmers’ markets; and other small retailers such as fruit and vegetable vendors. The program was funded at $300,000 for fiscal year 2011. In 2011 DSLBD provided a grant to D.C. Central Kitchen to develop the Healthy Corners program, which will be delivering fresh produce and homemade granola to up to 30 small grocers in Wards 5, 7, and 8.
D.C. Hunger Solutions can help by:
- Educating the public and stakeholders about FEED DC and its impact.
- Ensuring that that District is implement FEED DC.
- Sharing information on what other cities and states are doing to improve food access.
Help Spread the Word:
- Learn more about Healthy Corners and how you can get involved: contact D.C. Central Kitchen at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website.