A full-service grocery store may finally come to the people of West Oakland. It looks like the People's Community Market, a long-anticipated mid-size retailer in West Oakland, may be a step closer to raising the capital it needs to break ground with the announcement today by First Lady Michelle Obama about a new food financing initiative designed to increase access to healthy, affordable food in underserved communities in this state.
That's the local take away from a White House press conference Wednesday, where FLOTUS announced that The California FreshWorks Fund, a $200 million public-private partnership loan fund and a project of The California Endowment, will help bring healthy grocers to food deserts or areas that lack a grocery store. The endowment, a private statewide health foundation established to expand access to affordable, quality health care for communities in need, has been joined by prominent investors on the project, including NCB FSB, Kaiser Permanente, and JP Morgan Chase.
The goal of the fund is to provide loans at or below market rates to encourage new stores in Californian food deserts and it is expected to create or retain some 6000 jobs in the state. The First Lady also announced commitments from large chain retailers, including Walgreens and Walmart, to open or expand 1,500 stores in food deserts around the country. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, 23.5 million Americans-- including 6.5 million children--live in low-income neigborhoods that lack stores likely to sell affordable and nutritious foods.
"The FreshWorks funding is so applicable to what we do and it's a real acknowledgement of the work we've done for nine years in the community to be invited to this event," said People's Grocery executive director Nikki Henderson, who was summoned to the White House for the announcement. Since 2002, People's Grocery has provided food education, training, and access to residents of West Oakland, including cooking classes, nutrition programs, urban agriculture instruction, a mobile grocery truck and a CSA delivery dubbed the "Grub Box."