8:12 PM EDT

Marcia Fudge, D-OH 11th

Ms. FUDGE. I rise in opposition to the Schweikert amendment to strike the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.

Let me just say that not only is it well meaning, it works. And it's about time this Congress does something that is proven to work.

This amendment removes from the farm bill bipartisan language that I successfully championed during the House farm bill markup. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative outlines a comprehensive Federal response to addressing the limited and inequitable access to healthy foods in low-income communities in both rural and urban America.

It does this through the creation of a national fund manager housed within USDA that would improve access to healthy foods, create quality jobs, and revitalize low-income communities by providing loans and grants to eligible food retailers.

Nearly 30 million people live in low-income areas more than 1 mile from a supermarket, which means they lack adequate access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. It comes as no surprise that these same people are less likely to have a healthy diet than those with better access. Barriers to healthy food have worsened the growing epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related health problems in these communities.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative would combat the lack of healthy food retail through a public-private initiative that would allow for the leveraging of millions of private capital at the national level--something that my colleagues talk about all of the time.

HFFI provides one-time loans and grant financing to attract grocery stores and other fresh fruit retail to

renovate and expand existing stores so they can provide the healthy foods that communities want and need. This financing will help local businesses through loans and tailored financing packages that are not readily available.

Healthy food retail increases and stabilizes home values in nearby neighborhoods. It generates local tax revenues, provides workforce training and development, and promotes additional spending in the local economy generated by the store and the new jobs it creates. It actually has a multiplier effect.

To know that this works, we just need to look at Pennsylvania. A similar program that began there in 2004 resulted in 88 projects being built or renovated in underserved urban and rural communities across the State. Today, more than 5,000 jobs have been created--and I know we all want to create jobs--have been created or retained, and 400,000 people now have increased access to healthy food. Thirty million invested by the State has resulted in projects totalling more than $190 million.

The Pennsylvania program success rate has been better than the grocery industry overall. Federal, State, and many city governments are enacting legislation and policies to attract healthy food retail. There is tremendous momentum around the country right now to bring grocery stores to places that need them.

Also, a diverse group of nearly 100 stakeholders support this bill, including PolicyLink, The Reinvestment Fund, The Food Trust, and the National Grocers Association; and numerous agriculture, health, civil rights, and industry groups support this bill.

The Senate supports HFFI--not his bill. The Senate has recognized the case for HFFI and included this text in their bill.

Food access is a critical problem. The good news is that we know what to do and we can do it. I ask that you stand with me in defending this HFFI by opposing the Schweikert amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

8:15 PM EDT

David Schweikert, R-AZ 6th

Mr. SCHWEIKERT. Mr. Chairman, to the gentlelady from Ohio, you hit a couple points that I absolutely agree on.

We have a horrible obesity epidemic. We have a crisis of nutrition of what people consume. If you really care about those things, then you would actually look at the farm bill overall and what we do in this country to distort what we consume. Walk down your grocery store aisles and you will see what we've done by more government policy.

But the fact of the matter is you, in many ways, make your own argument. If there is actually a program that you believe is working at all in Pennsylvania, then you've demonstrated the States are capable of doing this. But, once again, to take another $125 million of Federal money to create another program that ultimately actually does things like buys a grocery store, I mean actually competes with a private business, I see something that's almost absurd in that if that's the way that this amendment

ultimately works.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

8:18 PM EDT

Michael C. Burgess M.D., R-TX 26th

Mr. BURGESS. Mr. Chairman, I would just say, Members, you know your districts. Some of you do have food deserts, whether you be in rural or urban areas.

This is important. We want people to spend those food stamp dollars wisely. [Page: H3893]

This gives them an opportunity to do so. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is a commonsense, good health issue. We should defeat the Schweikert amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.