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Ms. FUDGE. I rise in opposition to the Schweikert amendment to strike the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
Let me just say that not only is it well meaning, it works. And it's about time this Congress does something that is proven to work.
This amendment removes from the farm bill bipartisan language that I successfully championed during the House farm bill markup. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative outlines a comprehensive Federal response to addressing the limited and inequitable access to healthy foods in low-income communities in both rural and urban America.
It does this through the creation of a national fund manager housed within USDA that would improve access to healthy foods, create quality jobs, and revitalize low-income communities by providing loans and grants to eligible food retailers.
Nearly 30 million people live in low-income areas more than 1 mile from a supermarket, which means they lack adequate access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. It comes as no surprise that these same people are less likely to have a healthy diet than those with better access. Barriers to healthy food have worsened the growing epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related health problems in these communities.
The Healthy Food Financing Initiative would combat the lack of healthy food retail through a public-private initiative that would allow for the leveraging of millions of private capital at the national level--something that my colleagues talk about all of the time.
HFFI provides one-time loans and grant financing to attract grocery stores and other fresh fruit retail to
renovate and expand existing stores so they can provide the healthy foods that communities want and need. This financing will help local businesses through loans and tailored financing packages that are not readily available.
Healthy food retail increases and stabilizes home values in nearby neighborhoods. It generates local tax revenues, provides workforce training and development, and promotes additional spending in the local economy generated by the store and the new jobs it creates. It actually has a multiplier effect.
To know that this works, we just need to look at Pennsylvania. A similar program that began there in 2004 resulted in 88 projects being built or renovated in underserved urban and rural communities across the State. Today, more than 5,000 jobs have been created--and I know we all want to create jobs--have been created or retained, and 400,000 people now have increased access to healthy food. Thirty million invested by the State has resulted in projects totalling more than $190 million.
The Pennsylvania program success rate has been better than the grocery industry overall. Federal, State, and many city governments are enacting legislation and policies to attract healthy food retail. There is tremendous momentum around the country right now to bring grocery stores to places that need them.
Also, a diverse group of nearly 100 stakeholders support this bill, including PolicyLink, The Reinvestment Fund, The Food Trust, and the National Grocers Association; and numerous agriculture, health, civil rights, and industry groups support this bill.
The Senate supports HFFI--not his bill. The Senate has recognized the case for HFFI and included this text in their bill.
Food access is a critical problem. The good news is that we know what to do and we can do it. I ask that you stand with me in defending this HFFI by opposing the Schweikert amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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Ms. FUDGE. I thank the gentleman.
First, let me just say that certainly we can agree to disagree. But let's be honest. We are not buying grocery stores. It is not accurate to say to the American people that is what we are doing, Mr. Chairman. So let me just make that clear.
Secondly, if we have something that works and we know that our people are in need, then I think that we should make it something that all of us can agree to do.
Now, every State is not in the same situation. Every State doesn't have the same kind of vision that maybe the State of Pennsylvania had, but there are a lot of things that the States can do that they don't do and that all States don't do. So we want to make sure that every American has the opportunity to have decent, healthy food.
So I think that this is, in fact, a good start. My bill was passed bipartisan. I think it's good. I think that for someone to just come up and take potshots at something that they don't even clearly understand is unfair to the American people, because if it was understood, they would know that we are not buying grocery stores.
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