#PAGov: The Program Allyson Schwartz Traded Food Stamp Cuts For Doesn’t Even Work

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Allyson Schwartz’s campaign argues the reason she was the only House Democrat from PA to vote for the massive food stamp cuts in the farm bill (which hit PA extra hard) is because the Republicans let her insert a pet program in the bill to fight food deserts with public financing for grocery stores.

But a new study in Health Affairs by Steven Cummins, Ellen Flint, and Stephen Matthews says that program doesn’t even work:

National and local policies to improve diet in low-income US populations include increasing physical access to grocery stores and supermarkets in underserved neighborhoods. In a pilot study that evaluated the impacts of opening a new supermarket in a Philadelphia community considered a “food desert”—part of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative—we found that the intervention moderately improved residents’ perceptions of food accessibility. However, it did not lead to changes in reported fruit and vegetable intake or body mass index. The effectiveness of interventions to improve physical access to food and reduce obesity by encouraging supermarkets to locate in underserved areas therefore remains unclear.

Aaron Carroll has much more here.

To tie this back to the Governor race, there is a proven way to get more supermarkets in poor areas that doesn’t cost any public money at all: letting supermarkets sell booze.

It turns out if you make it more financially attractive to open a supermarket, by letting supermarkets earn higher profit margins with high-margin booze sales, you get more supermarkets.

Allyson Schwartz was the only candidate at the WHYY/Philadelphia Business Journal forum to say she’d support allowing beer distributors to sell six-packs of beer, but she stopped short of saying she’d let supermarkets sell it.

But this free policy change works better than the expensive public financing initiative she created for Philly, and took nationwide in the farm bill. It’s not clear why we need to spend scarce public money layering some good policies on top of crap policies, rather than just cleaning up the crap and seeing where things stand.

This entry was posted in Economy, Governor.

9 Responses to #PAGov: The Program Allyson Schwartz Traded Food Stamp Cuts For Doesn’t Even Work

  1. Pingback: SNAPshot: John Hanger and Union Activist Speak Out Against Schwartz’s Farm Bill Vote | Raging Chicken Press

  2. tim brown says:

    The vote would resonate outside of Philadelphia if she gets the democratic nomination. The problem is she is not well known outside of Philadelphia. The sale of liquor stores to get it into grocery stores in the inner city does nothing but pour gasoline on a bad situation. You can not control beer and malt liquor in the city, how are you going to control liquor. Supermarkets will go where they can sell their product at a fair price. You may want to ask about building a supermarket in Philadelphia vs the rest of the state and the cost and ease of it. Maybe it is difficult to do business in Philadelphia.

  3. Tsuyoshi says:

    Seems to me like the best way to alleviate food deserts is to just increase SNAP benefits. If people have more money to spend on food, there will be more people selling food, no? So I think Schwartz’s argument is wrong, but I can’t blame her for trying.

    Honestly, as a member of the House minority party, she doesn’t have the leverage to stop the SNAP cuts anyway. If that leverage exists, it’s in the Senate. So I don’t think she did a good thing here (it’s apparently worthless policy that she’s pushing), but… I’ve seen so much worse, so I can’t get too worked up over this.

    But anyway this study shows that just having better food available doesn’t help. So a better thing to do might be to just raise taxes on junk food (which, as far as I know, are zero right now), and use the money to subsidize fruits and vegetables.

    The myriad arbitrary restrictions on alcohol here (as well as everywhere else in the US) totally mystify me, to be honest…

  4. Pam says:

    City property taxes are ridiculously high and crime is high – why would anyone want to open a grocery store in any major city? I know you’re fixated on cities being better, but there are many good reasons why people don’t love them and taxes and crime are at the top of the list. I enjoyed living in a city but I moved when my son became old enough to go to school and I couldn’t afford private school tuition on top of my high property taxes and the public schools were terrible. I don’t love the suburbs but the schools are better, taxes are lower, and violent crime is lower.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Philly just had the lowest number of violent crimes since 1967.

      • Pam says:

        And the schools are a mess there. Until schools can function in large cities, parents will keep leaving for better suburban school districts (which certainly aren’t perfect). I loved living in the city but for a parent of modest means, city living is out of reach.

  5. Pingback: Convenient Grocery Stores in Mixed Use Neighborhoods Are an Important Policy Goal - Keystone Politics

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