WASHINGTON — In testimony before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry, Jeffrey Brown, president and chief executive officer, Brown's Super Stores, Westville, N.J., offered suggestions on how the federal government can address the issue of “food deserts” — urban and rural areas underserved by conventional supermarkets.
Brown, who operates 10 ShopRite stores, opened four stores in food desert areas of Philadelphia with the help of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI), and has attracted national attention for his efforts.
“I want to emphasize three things,” Brown said in his testimony. “First, the problem of food deserts is real. Second, it is a problem that is being solved in Philadelphia and can be solved throughout the United States. And finally, the solution to this problem will have positive impacts on our economy and more importantly, on the health of our citizens.”
Brown recommended the following:
Bipartisan approval of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative — which was proposed by the Obama Administration and is based on the FFFI and its related 2011 budget.
Modification of New Market Tax Credits so they are not subject to the alternative minimum tax.
Modification of the labor budget to allow for some flexible training dollars to fund startup training for new supermarket employees in low income communities.
Creation of a budget in either the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Health and Human Services Department for flexible social venture funding for innovative projects that have the potential to increase progress in solving food deserts, related unhealthy eating behavior, or the lack of access to healthcare. These would be delivered through expanded supermarkets servicing low-income communities.
Brown is currently developing an in-store health clinic offering behavioral modification services and social services to help his customers clients make better decisions to improve their health and get the support of government sponsored benefits.