Monday, December 22, 2014

Oases in the food deserts

Another Daily News Editorial that may be of interest to Earth to Philly readers - especially given our previous coverage of the issue.

Oases in the food deserts

Another Daily News Editorial that may be of interest to Earth to Philly readers - especially given our previous coverage of the issue.

Apples and Oranges at Corner Stores?

FIRST LADY Michelle Obama's visit to Philadelphia on Friday will focus on a critical component of her campaign against obesity - access to healthy food.

And that has more to do with income than it should: millions of low-income and minority families live in what have been tagged "food deserts," areas that lack supermarkets or other places to buy fresh, healthy food.

Which is why Mrs. Obama is headed our way. She will visit supermarkets here to highlight the success of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative - which is the model for President Obama's plan to spend $400 million to leverage private money for grants to build or renovate supermarkets in underserved locations.

But "food deserts" are not empty. In fact, they are dotted with thousands of corner stores that carry little healthy food but a lot of empty calories. In fact, the Food Trust, a nonprofit organization that works to provide access to healthy food, says that there are seven to eight corner convenience stores within three to four blocks of most schools.

The snacks that kids buy there add hundreds of calories to their daily diets, according to a study done here by Temple University and the Food Trust and published last year in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers surveyed 800 purchases made by fourth-, fifth- and six-graders. They found that the kids spent an average $1.07 on each visit - and bought an average 360 calories of junk food. More than a third of the kids visited twice a day.

The lure of potato chips and "Hugs," fruit-flavored sugar water, can undo the efforts of Philadelphia public schools to get kids to eat healthy. The school district has eliminated sugared sodas from school vending machines and no longer fries any food. Also, many schools have strong nutrition education programs.

But even if a kid has developed a taste for fruit and bottled water, there may be no place to buy healthy snacks, or to buy them as cheaply as junk.

Selling healthy food, especially fresh and perishable food, costs more to do. It requires more refrigeration and extra shelf space, which may prove unaffordable to many small-business owners.

Enter the Food Trust's "Healthy Corner Store Initiative," a program that works on both supply and demand with the goal of cutting about 200 calories from kids' daily snacks.

The program works in the schools to educate students - the potential customers - about making healthy snack choices. The program also includes a "Corner Store Network," which now has 40 stores. Member stores are eligible to receive refrigeration units to display fresh fruit salads and more shelving to display other healthy snacks. The Network also provides marketing materials with a SnackinFresh logo for healthy, affordable-snack labeling, as well as consulting services to help stores increase their profits. A Web site,, includes maps of five Philadelphia schools and the nearby stores that sell healthy snacks.

Even if many more supermarkets are built in Philadelphia neighborhoods, many families will still be doing a lot of shopping at corner stores. So it's important that those stores carry things like low-fat milk, fresh bread, and fruits and vegetables. As a notable goal, making kids healthier is no small potatoes.

About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to

Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.

Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.

Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.

Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.

Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...

Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.

Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.

Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.

In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man

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