October 18, 2021 (PROVIDENCE, RI) – Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) has received a $2.158 million loan from the Healthy Retail and Commerce Fund which will support the organization’s work bringing healthy and affordable food to Central Falls, Pawtucket, and South Providence. The fund is operated by Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC). The loan funds were committed by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the Kresge Foundation, and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island.
“It takes vision and creativity to make healthy food available in places where it is hard to find,” said SCLT Executive Director Margaret DeVos. “Our health insurance partners, along with the Healthy Retail and Commerce Fund, are showing just that kind of vision. Their investment today will improve health outcomes for many years to come.”
SCLT helps people in Rhode Island’s low-income, food desert neighborhoods grow and buy sustainably grown, culturally familiar produce. The loan will help finance its new headquarters and Farm-to-Market Center at 404 Broad Street in Providence. Along with other programs, SCLT provides leased land to 30 urban and rural farmers and helps them sell their produce at farmers markets and through wholesale outlets that serve low-income communities.
“Kresge’s goal in investing in the Fund was to see large health plans use more of their billions in endowment capital to address the upstream factors that lead to unhealthy communities,” said Aaron Seybert, managing director, Social Investment Practice at the Kresge Foundation. “We know that healthy food is essential to good health, but too many people live in places where that food is hard to access. This investment will take direct aim at that issue in Providence, and we’re proud to invest alongside Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island to see that come to fruition.”
“Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island has long made access to nutritious food a focus of our philanthropic efforts and supporting the work of Southside Community Land Trust and its Farm-to-Market Center at 404 Broad is just one of the ways that BCBSRI is enabling our vision to passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island,” said Carolyn Belisle, BCBSRI’s managing director of corporate social responsibility. “This is truly an innovative public-private partnership that is addressing critical social determinants of health through the lens of equity, economic vitality, and community health.”
Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island President and CEO Peter Marino said, “Our commitment to addressing food insecurity and other social determinants of health is part of Neighborhood’s long history of serving the state’s most vulnerable populations and is what made this partnership with Southside Community Land Trust such a natural fit for us. We are always looking for smart, strategic ways to improve the health and quality of life of all Rhode Islanders – whether it be partnering with a data-science company to identify and assist members residing in food deserts to supporting organizations that bring healthy and culturally appropriate meals to diverse communities. Neighborhood’s support of Southside Community Land Trust to bring healthy and affordable food to Rhode Islanders struggling with food insecurity aligns with our longstanding mission to assist Rhode Islanders most at risk.”
The Healthy Retail and Commerce Fund combines investments from hospitals, health systems, and foundations to support businesses that will create new jobs, improve food access and affordability, and bring new economic vitality to communities.
“Small businesses that serve low-income communities have been left to fend for themselves for too long,” said Darrèll Brown, vice president and director of CLF Rhode Island. “SCLT’s tireless work to make healthy food available to these neighborhoods is absolutely a mission worth supporting. This investment will lead to healthier communities throughout Rhode Island, which is a win for everyone.”
“The generous commitments of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Neighborhood Health Plan, which match funds provided by the Kresge Foundation, are crucial in addressing the social determinants of health in our communities,” said Joe Flatley, MHIC’s president and CEO. “Access to affordable fresh food is essential to good health, and these investments in the Healthy Retail and Commerce Fund will help SCLT continue its important work.”
SCLT provides access to land, education and other resources so people in Rhode Island can grow food in environmentally sustainable ways, and create community food systems where locally produced, affordable and healthy food is available to all. It is located at 109 Somerset St., Providence, RI, 02907. For more information, please visit www.southsideclt.org
Experts are available for further comment.