In 2009, the Building Blocks coalition won a major victory when the New York City Council adopted many of our recommendations with the passage of the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program. We organized and advocated to ensure affordability and access measures for the local community, a more transparent process for recruiting and subsidizing stores in a neighborhood, and standards that would help level the playing field for unionized grocers.
The comprehensive FRESH legislative package was the first in the nation to combine zoning and financial incentives to encourage supermarket development across multiple neighborhoods. Over the next 10 years, FRESH is projected to create an estimated 15 new grocery stores and update 10 existing stores, creating 1,000 new jobs and retaining 400 others.
Through educating key decision-makers, hosting forums and grassroots activity, we were able to strengthen the FRESH program by securing standards that:
- Favor responsible employers who will develop full supermarkets rather than small corner stores or bodegas;
- Require subsidized supermarkets to accept WIC and EBT, thus expanding fresh food access to poor and low-income families that rely on federal food stamp programs; and
- Create increased community input and oversight mechanisms for subsidy applicants through New York City’s Community Boards.