Innovative Partnership Shrinking California Food Deserts

The California FreshWorks Fund improves healthy food options and creates jobs in underserved communities, leading to greater well-being for hundreds of thousands of Californians, regardless of their zip code.

Themes: Prioritize Equity

The term “food desert” emerged about a decade ago to describe areas of the United States where people lived beyond 20-minute drive to fresh produce. As the concept caught on, food deserts have been identified across the country. In these areas, where shoppers often resort to nearby bodegas and fast food restaurants for regular meals, communities’ health is severely impacted, with higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses.

In California alone, over one million residents do not have access to fresh produce within a 20-minute drive from their homes.

In 2011, a public-private partnership in the California FreshWorks Fund was launched to encourage the construction of healthy food retail and distribution in underserved communities throughout the state. Co-founded by Kaiser Permanente, an Oakland, California-based nonprofit healthcare consortium, CA FreshWorks will spur economic development that supports healthy communities, and inspire innovation in healthy food retailing.

Today, CA FreshWorks is engaged in over a dozen projects, improving the food options and health of hundreds of thousands of Californians.

Food deserts are especially tricky to address due to the high initial costs of starting a market in economically encumbered areas, and the difficulty for government agencies to offset those costs. However FreshWorks asserts that one’s health should not be determined by their area code – and has found a way to create wellness and opportunity in areas that could not previously access them.

Find out more about Freshworks at

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