Fort Worth considers ways to address nutritional needs

East and southeast Fort Worth community leaders, city officials and others took time Friday during an economic development summit that usually focuses on topics like transportation needs to talk about food.

Not what was for lunch, but rather how to better meet nutritional needs and get fresh fruits and vegetables to the residents in areas under-served by supermarkets.

Addressing nutritional needs is a timely and important topic, said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, who hosted the summit, now in its sixth year. This year's event was held at Texas Wesleyan University.

More than 200 people heard from a professional panel about innovative programs in Philadelphia and south Dallas, as well as Tarrant County and state initiatives.

"We learn from their experience," Burgess said. "To many in the room, there are going to be new ideas they never considered before."

In December, Tarrant County Public Health plans to bring together decision-makers to start setting local nutrition policy, said Lou Brewer, the department's executive director.

In Texas, 64 percent of adults and 20 percent of children are either overweight or obese, said Kathy Golson, senior policy adviser with the Texas Agriculture Department.

She encouraged the group to talk about how people get to and from grocery stores when discussing transportation plans.

Yael Lehmann, executive director of the Food Trust, a Philadelphia group that has set up 30 farmers markets throughout that city, spoke about its Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a program that provides gap financing to grocers to get them over the hurdle of being able to open a store.

A decade ago, Philadelphia was second among the nation's larger cities with the fewest number of supermarkets, she said.

Since the financing program began in 2004, 88 new grocery stores have opened in Pennsylvania, 18 of those in Philadelphia, she said.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727