MADISON — On Aug. 3, Mayor Paul Soglin announced the official beginning of the City’s Healthy Retail Access Program. This new program, spearheaded through the efforts of the Madison Food Policy Council, provides $100,000 for improvements to increase access to healthy retail in underserved areas.
“Madison enjoys one of the strongest farm-to-table movements in the entire country,” said Mayor Soglin. “Unfortunately, there are too many Madisonians that are not able to enjoy this bounty. As we strive to eliminate poverty and reduce disparities, improving food access at a neighborhood level is critical in achieving those goals.”
The City is utilizing a “Food Access Improvement Map” that displays several areas of focus across the city where food access is a challenge. Most of these areas of focus share characteristics of poor access to affordable food retail outlets and higher levels of poverty. Many households within such areas also have limited access to a vehicle.
“Food access is more complicated than simply placing a grocery store in every neighborhood,” said Anne Reynolds, Madison Food Policy Council member and Director of the Center for Cooperatives at University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Each situation in each neighborhood is different, so solutions need to be locally-based, capitalizing on the talents, knowledge and existing resources in each community.”
The city is seeking applications from existing retailers, organizations that are directly partnering with retailers, or projects that improve access to retailers. All projects must address the areas of focus as outlined in the Food Access Improvement Map, and requests for city funding are limited to $35,000.
The city is partnering with local Community Development Financial Institutions, Forward Community Investments and Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation to coordinate efforts to provide technical assistance to retailers to assist in the execution of projects and also to leverage other funding when necessary.
Applications are due to the City by September 18, but will be accepted on a rolling basis, based on available funds.