December 10, 2018
On December 10, the County of El Paso took a major step to make healthy, affordable food easier to buy. After several months of collaboration with the Paso del Norte Institute for Healthy Living at UTEP (IHL) and the American Heart Association, as well as discussion with the El Paso County Commissioners Court, County Commissioner David Stout and the County Economic Development Department presented the final Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Policy Guidelines for the County of El Paso last week and they were approved by the Commissioners Court unanimously. The 5-0 vote triggers the allocation of $500,000 of the County Economic Development Impact Fund to kick off the initiative.
The El Paso HFFI is a public-private partnership that aims to increase access to healthy food for residents in the community by encouraging the development and expansion of healthy food retail and related infrastructure. The initiative is based on best-practice examples from similar initiatives that have proliferated around the country as a tool for state and local governments to bring new supermarkets, grocery stores, and other food retail models to underserved communities. The El Paso County initiative will be the first ever county-level HFFI program in the United States.
“There is such a huge need to improve access to healthy, affordable food in our county. This new program will drive economic development around healthy food retail,” said El Paso Commissioner David Stout. “Programs like this not only lead to increased access to healthy food, they create new jobs as well.”
In the initial phase of the County HFFI program, local grocers, farmers and other small businesses may be eligible to apply for funding for projects that increase access to healthy foods.
Through funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Healthy Eating Active Living Initiative, the IHL released a study (Food for every Child) that mapped El Paso County’s food access needs, showing areas of El Paso County that do not have sufficient access to healthy food. The IHL also convened multiple partners to address healthy food access and provide additional programs, including nutrition education, cooking classes, health screenings, and increased access to federal funding for food through SNAP. Many of these are being offered in grocery stores.
Several organizations in the region also indicated their support for this program. These organizations include:
- City of El Paso Department of Public Health
- Kelly Memorial Food Pantry
- Centro San Vicente
- La Semilla
- El Paso True Food
- Capra Enterprises
- YMCA of El Paso
The County of El Paso will begin accepting applicants for the HFFI program in early 2019. All potential applicants are encouraged to contact the County Economic Development Department at 915-546-2177.
For more information about the Healthy Food Finance Initiative and related programs in the Paso del Norte region, go to www.pdnihl.org or call 915-747-6449.
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