access to fresh food

Partner Spotlight: Partnership for a Healthier America’s Place-Based Mapping Tool

Collecting and analyzing data can be a tedious task, one that requires significant amounts of time and research capacity, even in an ever-evolving technical era. As The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) continues to expand their private sector partnerships and scale their initiatives, they discovered a need to be able to manage more partner and community data, more quickly. Doing so would amplify their ability to provide more timely decision support, prioritize areas of greatest need, and best match strategies to community needs.

Problem, meet solution.

Place-Based map built upon the Vulnerable Populations Footprint

To maximize resources and potential for impact, PHA partnered with Institute for People Place and Possibility (IP3) and the University of Missouri Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES) to develop the Place-Based Mapping (PBM) tool.

The PBM tool provides a powerful way to analyze data related to poverty, obesity, and vulnerable populations specific to a particular geographic area. Using the architecture of the Community Commons Vulnerable Populations Footprint (VPF), the PBM tool combines partner locations and key equity indicators to inform a comprehensive community indicator report, a demographic summary, and a series of maps and other data visualizations showcasing a community’s assets and opportunities. PHA Hub members are also able to upload their own data to create new footprints – a solution which supports real-time and hyper-contextualized decision making.

Click the map to zoom to your area.

The PBM tool ensures that PHA and its partners are able to identify the most vulnerable geographies for their interventions. Business partners, in particular, have found value in the PBM tool. They see it as a way to enhance their understanding of community needs, evaluate their potential impact, and keep public good and data-informed decision making at the forefront of their work. With organizations like Kwik Trip and Sheetz, businesses that make commitments with PHA agree to a collective goal of transforming the marketplace – making retailers more equitable, accessible, and focused on community health.

As stated by their Chairman, James Gavin III,

That’s why PHA places a special emphasis on reaching the children who live in neighborhoods that are not only disproportionately affected by obesity, but least likely to have the means to combat it. Our staff is trained to structure and direct partner commitments to ensure they reach those geographic places and socioeconomic groups that are the most challenged.

PHA is devoted to working with the private sector to ensure the health of our nation’s youth by helping to solve the childhood obesity crisis. PHA brings together public, private, and nonprofit leaders to broker meaningful commitments and develop strategies to end childhood obesity. Most importantly, PHA ensures that commitments are made and kept by working with unbiased, third parties to monitor and publicly report on the progress their partners are making to show everyone what can be achieved by working together. 

The development of the PHA Place Based Mapping Tool  was made possible through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation COGIS Project.

To learn more about the PBM tool, contact

National Study of Community Benefit Practices to Promote Healthy Food Access

Health Care Without Harm’s (HCWH) three-year project, Catalyzing Health Care Investment in Healthier Food Systems, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, includes a national study of nonprofit hospitals’ community benefit practices to promote healthy food access and healthier community food environments. The national research informs the development of tools and resources to help facilities address healthy food access and risk of diet-related health conditions in their community health needs assessments (CHNAs) and community benefit implementation strategies.

A national survey of not-for-profit general hospitals throughout the United States assessed the landscape of community benefit programming to increase healthy food access, promote healthy and sustainable food systems, and reduce risk of diet-related health conditions.

Researchers discovered that obesity and diet-related health conditions were among the most common health needs identified in CHNAs. A key finding was that the majority of interventions centered around diet and nutrition education and exercise promotion– and that fewer interventions focused on increasing access to  healthy foods.

Click the map to zoom to your area.

“Alongside the nutrition and exercise information, a lot more can be done to address healthy food access in our communities,” Susan Bridle-Fitzpatrick, PhD, Health Care Without Harm Senior Researcher, said. “Health professionals may educate overweight or diabetic community members to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables per day, but if there are no places to buy affordable fresh produce in the neighborhood, or families are struggling with food insecurity, then these folks will have a difficult time adhering to the recommendations. It is critical to understand the environmental context and how the choices people make depend on the choices they have. People know to eat broccoli and apples–what are the other obstacles keeping people from eating healthier foods? We need to make access to healthy foods both convenient and affordable in our communities.”

Click the map to zoom to your area.

The study involves a national survey of not-for-profit hospitals, analysis of survey respondents’ Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs) and implementation strategies, in-depth interviews with key informants, case studies, and a literature review. This report is the first in a series of research reports and other resources that will be released in 2017 and early 2018. These will include a comprehensive research report that will discuss in depth the findings from the survey and other research methods and present recommendations. Also upcoming is a toolkit of guidance resources that will support hospital community benefit professionals and community partners in developing initiatives to promote healthy food access and healthier food environments.

While this project takes a broad look at how hospitals are assessing healthy food access, obesity, and diet-related health needs in their CHNAs and how facilities are addressing these needs in their implementation strategies, the forthcoming resources particularly recommend certain kinds of “win-win-win” opportunities. The toolkit will highlight innovative examples where hospitals employ their community benefit resources to:

  1. improve access to healthy, affordable food and at the same time
  2. support economic and workforce development in low-income communities
  3. strengthen local and sustainable food systems

The project promotes “promising practices” initiatives that include local food producers and processors as part of a multi-pronged effort to increase access to fresh, affordable, and sustainably produced food; promote health equity; and stimulate the local economy—particularly through creating well-paid jobs in low-income communities. These “win-win-win” initiatives support the local food system while working to eliminate health disparities and empower and improve the lives of community residents.

NEA starts Bag The Junk website

Bag the Junk is an informational website to support the NEA Health Information Network’s Healthier School Food Advocacy project. The Healthier School Food Advocacy project is a national initiative to improve the nutritional quality of snack foods and beverages sold in school vending machines, cafeteria à la carte lines, school stores and fundraisers. visit website

Chicago Urban Gardening Group Adding Bicycles

Efforts to promote sustainable transportation and projects that support access to healthy, affordable food have a lot in common. Growing Power, a national nonprofit headquartered in Milwaukee, which currently runs several urban farms and community gardens in Chicago, is looking to combine the two. They recently put out a “Request for Collaborator,” seeking a partner to create an active transportation program for their Windy City locations. read more

Crowdsourcing May Fund Urban Gardens Across America

Whole Kids Foundation, PACT,and Indiegogo are teaming up to help build urban sustainable gardens across the U.S. The “Urban Gardens Across America” campaign enables donors to fund the garden projects of their choice through the crowd-funding platform Indiegogo. Each garden will have its own campaign page, and Indiegogo will host a partner page housing all the individual garden campaigns. read more

Will Allen Grows A Million Pounds of Food

Will Allen, son of a sharecropper, former professional basketball player, ex-corporate sales leader and now farmer, has become recognized as among the preeminent thinkers of our time on agriculture and food policy. The founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc., a farm and community food center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Will is widely considered the leading authority in the expanding field of urban agriculture. read more and see videos

Wisconsin Brings Farm Food to the Schools — and Keeps the Dollars Local

Part of a series in which Rob Waters, chief communications officer for the Prevention Institute, talks about the impact prevention funds are having in communities across the country.

Wood County, Wisconsin, may be the largest producer of cranberries in the world but in many parts of this rural county it can be hard to find fresh fruit or vegetables at the store—or the school lunchroom. So three years ago, Wood County health officials and advocates began a program to bring schoolchildren out for visits to working farms and, just as important, bring produce from the farms to school cafeteria. read more

7-Eleven Shifts Focus to Healthier Food Options

7-Eleven, the convenience store chain, is restocking its shelves with an eye toward health. Over the last year, the retailer has introduced a line of fresh foods for the calorie conscious and trimmed down its more indulgent fare by creating portion-size items. By 2015, the retailer aims to have 20 percent of sales come from fresh foods in its American and Canadian stores, up from about 10 percent currently, according to a company spokesman. read more