St. Peterburg Healthy Food Action Plan: A Path Toward Health Equity
By Sarah Wiemert, Food Systems Planner
Healthy St. Pete is excited to be facilitating, through community participation and organizational partnership, a Healthy Food Action Plan. Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Healthy Food Action Plan will guide short- and long-term projects, partnerships, and policies that address food access issues in Healthy Food Priority Areas to promote health equity in St. Petersburg. It will improve access to and education about healthy, affordable food sources and agencies, increase the role of food in economic development, prevent food waste, and enhance coordination and communication among existing food resources and agencies.
Specific areas of the city, titled Healthy Food Priority Areas, will be the focus of this planning effort. These are areas where improving access to whole, fresh, and culturally appropriate foods, as well as the ability to use those foods to boost individual health outcomes, is critical. Limited access to a variety of food retail options, transportation, nutrition education, and income barriers are of particular concern within the Healthy Food Priority Areas.
The goal of identifying and addressing Healthy Food Priority Areas is to create a more equitable and inclusive food system, ensuring that all residents have access to nutritious food for health and promoting better overall health outcomes within these communities. The Healthy Food Action Plan utilizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service tool, Food Access Research Atlas, to identify which areas of St. Petersburg are considered Healthy Food Priority Areas. Each community identified has a 20% or greater prevalence of poverty and a significant or majority number of residents without access to a healthy food retailer within ½ mile, considering walkability and no vehicle access.
The Healthy Food Action Plan will consist of four phases:
Phase One: Community Assessment & Analysis
Utilizing existing secondary data sources and digital resources, Healthy St. Pete will collect and analyze the available information and data related to the built environment, social environment, economic environment, natural environment, and policies and regulatory environments that impact the food system.
Phase Two: Community Engagement
A multifaceted approach to community engagement and feedback will take place, and residents of the Healthy Food Priority Areas will be encouraged to share their experiences of food access in their neighborhoods. The approach will include the help of Neighborhood Food Advocates, implementation of a Community Food Survey, and hosting Community Food Forums where food and community will come together to represent what makes St. Pete a great place to live and to identify where improvement is necessary.
Phase Three: Envisioning
A five-year action plan will be developed that outlines priorities and strategies identified during the community engagement and data collection phases.
Phase Four: Implementation of Community Food Grants
The city of St. Petersburg will launch the plan into action through an initial community grant making process. Community food grants will be available to address short-term priorities outlined in the Healthy Food Action Plan.
The Healthy Food Action Plan will serve as a living document and be used as a benchmark for progress measuring food access in St. Petersburg. Healthy St. Pete will be holding Community Food Forums and surveying residents from November 2023 through February 2024. Keep an eye out for updates on events where you can share your vision, ideas, and voice as we work together toward a healthy and equitable St. Pete! More information on the Healthy Food Action Plan and other ways St. Petersburg is addressing food access and security can be found at healthystpetefl.com.