Farm bill will help healthy initiatives

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have passed a $956.4 billion farm bill that includes money that Rep. Allyson Schwartz secured for a national Healthy Food Financing Initiative to bring jobs and affordable food retail options to urban and rural communities.

Last June, Schwartz introduced legislation that ultimately was included in the farm bill.

The proposal authorizes spending to continue providing start-up grants and affordable loan financing for eligible food retailers, farmers markets and cooperatives that sell healthy food.

“The Healthy Food Financial Initiative will make an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of Pennsylvanians and the 24 million Americans who don’t have access to healthy foods,” Schwartz said. “This public-private partnership will create solid, good-paying jobs across Pennsylvania while boosting local economic development and strengthening our neighborhoods. By providing healthier food retail options in urban and rural areas, we can ensure Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives and save billions in health care costs nationwide.”

Among those supporting the additional funding were the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Food Trust, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Jeff Brown, treasurer of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association and operator of 11 ShopRite supermarkets in the Philadelphia area.

The farm bill passed the House by a vote of 251–166. It was opposed by liberals who disagreed with $8 billion in food stamp cuts and conservatives who thought the bill included too much spending. ••