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Foundation Funding to Eliminate Food Deserts and to Improve Oral Health



May 15th, 2012

The May GrantWatch column in Health Affairs focuses on efforts of foundations around the United States to address the problems of ‘food deserts’—low-income communities where there are limited locations for residents to buy reasonably priced fresh fruits and vegetables. The topic of food deserts can be controversial in some quarters: Did you see the recent article in the New York Times on this topic? And how about this article in the Chicago Tribune, which quotes a food policy researcher’s blog criticizing the Times article?

In the April issue, my GrantWatch column focused on oral health: how foundations are supporting efforts to expand access to dental care and to prevent dental disease.

Food Deserts

In my May column, “Foundations Aim to Foster Nourishment and Banish ‘Food Deserts,’” read about efforts around the country to alleviate food deserts, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture says can lead to “poor diet, obesity, and other diet-related illness.” The column mentions a variety of funders including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and its investment in the New Jersey Food Access Initiative, and well as its funding of the Salud America! research network at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

I also mention the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s effort to get fresh food to low-income communities in several localities around the country. Kaiser Permanente is funding Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit, which is doing some fascinating work. The California Endowment has spearheaded an effort called the California FreshWorks Fund. Numerous partners participate in the loan fund—they range from NCB Capital Impact to Dignity Health to the California Grocers Association.

I also write about the interesting work of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, located in Atlanta. And, one state over, in South Carolina, the Mary Black Foundation, a local funder inSpartanburg, has provided funding for a Healthy Food Hub, which will open next year.

To find out more, read the Grantwatch column (free access).

Oral Health

Oral health is important, and in my opinion, its importance is often overlooked. “Foundation Funding in Oral Health: Expanding Access and Prevention,” the April GrantWatch column (free access), mentions the activities of the Funders Oral Health Policy Group. National foundations mentioned in the column include the DentaQuest, Robert Wood Johnson, and Kellogg Foundations, as well as the work of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign (an activity of the Pew Charitable Trusts).

Work on oral health is also occurring at the state and local levels. I highlight efforts in Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, and Oklahoma City.

Lagniappe:

In case you missed this news, in October, Lauren LeRoy will be stepping down as head of Grantmakers In Health. Read more in the April column. LeRoy has been a GrantWatch author and blogger and an all-around good friend to Health Affairs’ GrantWatch section. She will be missed.

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