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Cultivating ideas on urban ‘grocery gap’
District measures aim to supply healthier food choices
Question of the Day
Mr. Brown said public-private partnerships are paying off in Ward 8, where Yes Organic Market is slated for an Aug. 31 ribbon-cutting ceremony of a store on Pennsylvania Avenue in the Southeast quadrant’s Fairlawn neighborhood.
The Cheh bill, like the initiatives in other cities and states, will involve several local and federal policies, including acceptance of food stamps and zoning regulations.
Mrs. Cheh’s bill also calls for expanding the bureaucracy by creating a “grocery ambassador,” who would be responsible for assisting retailers in building or renovating stores in certain areas of the city.
If the measure passes, the city would join Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania and other jurisdictions by taking advantage of the hundreds of millions of federal dollars in President Obama’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative. The money will be distributed to states and localities to help subsidize retailers.
In New York, Gov. David A. Paterson launched his anti-obesity campaign before the Obamas took up residence in the White House.
His five-point Healthy Food-Healthy Communities Initiative includes a soda tax, which the District has emulated but New York lawmakers failed to approve, and provides loans to food markets in lower-income communities.
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is piggybacking on the governor’s plan. His FRESH Program is the first in the nation to combine zoning and financial incentives to boost the number of fresh-food options in multiple underserved neighborhoods. FRESH will help create or upgrade more than two dozen grocery stores, retain 400 jobs and create 1,100 new ones, city officials said.
The D.C. and New York initiatives have something else in common - a grocery ambassador, except in New York it’s called a “healthy food and fitness business development coordinator.”
The nitty-gritty of the D.C. bill will be ironed out, said Mrs. Cheh and Mr. Brown, who are in the midst of election battles.
But, Mrs. Cheh said, “I’m hoping to have it done this fall regardless of what happens on Sept. 14,” the day of the primaries.
“Given the nature of the bill, which also helps economic development and jobs, I can’t imagine opposition,” Mrs. Cheh said.
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About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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