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Revere wants to close grocery gap

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
“Too many Revere residents have limited opportunities to buy fresh, healthy and affordable foods,” said Mayor Brian Arrigo.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

REVERE — Mayor Brian Arrigo is worried about a new study that ranks the city fifth on a list of 10 Massachusetts communities suffering a “grocery gap.”

Newly released data by the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) reported that 2.8 million Massachusetts residents face transportation difficulties in getting to and from grocery stores in their communities or lack sufficient stores to provide competitive food pricing.

Chelsea ranks first on the grocery gap list and Lynn is ranked eighth.

Arrigo wants to work with the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, established by state law in 2014, to provide a flexible financing tool to help establish, renovate, or expand grocery stores and other fresh food retailers.

“Too many Revere residents have limited opportunities to buy fresh, healthy and affordable foods,” Arrigo said in a statement released by his office.

MHPA and other hunger prevention organizations worked with state legislators in 2015 and 2016 to secure $6 million in capital funds for use by the Trust as a financing source for efforts to increase available markets and grocers in communities.

Research cited by the mayor’s office shows that access to grocery stores is linked to lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.  New food enterprises can address those challenges, while also creating good paying jobs for people with varying levels of skills, education and language proficiency.

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Arrigo pointed to the Revere Farmers’ Market as a success story “serving as a vital access point to fresh, healthy produce not only for low-income families, seniors, and veterans, but also for students who can get a free lunch through the Summer Meals Program.”

Funded by the MGH Revere and Chelsea Health Centers over the past two years, the market bolsters business development in the city and provides a valuable space for small business incubation.

“Through the support of the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, the Revere Farmers’ Market could become a year-round provider of fresh, local food for Revere residents, while creating job opportunities and spurring economic growth. The Massachusetts Food Trust would also encourage investment in other food businesses,” Arrigo said.

The market is preparing to launch a new Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program to match Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients’ purchases of local fruits and vegetables.

To support the city’s request for Food Trust assistance, Arrigo has commissioned a “Community Food Assessment.”

Revere on the Move, a local community organization, is working with the city’s Healthy Community Initiatives, with the MGH Revere CARES Coalition, Tufts University students and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, to conduct the assessment.

Their research includes data collection through a city-wide business survey and public workshop.

For more information on the MHPA study, visit https://mapublichealth.org/priorities/access-to-healthy-affordable-food/ma-food-trust-program/.

 

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