CAMP HILL, Pa. – Rite Aid’s philanthropic arm, which has been renamed Rite Aid Healthy Futures, said Thursday that it is underscoring and living up to its reimagined identity with a new $10 million Strengthening Cities initiative that supports healthier and more equitable neighborhoods.
Starting with a focus on food equity, the Strengthening Cities initiative will initially fund 20 nonprofit organizations with emphasis on Black and Brown-led charities across Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Fresno and Philadelphia. The grants will support innovative and sustainable programs that widen food access, advance food sovereignty, address food apartheid and ultimately improve health outcomes for children and their families. Programs include community gardens, urban farms, school partnerships, hunger-relief efforts and more.
“Racial inequities and health disparities across big cities and small towns in the U.S. continue to profoundly affect the lives and futures of tens of millions of Americans every day,” said Matt DeCamara, executive director of Rite Aid Healthy Futures. “ZIP codes have unparalleled consequences for one’s life opportunities and long-term outlook “The Strengthening Cities initiative will confront the harsh realities of poverty and hunger while impacting many lives and futures. We cannot achieve racial equity if we do not also achieve health equity for all Americans.”
Rite Aid Healthy Futures identified its six focus cities and the emphasis on healthy food by mapping demographic and health-related data in locations where Rite Aid stores have a significant presence. Staff from Healthy Futures have spent the past several months listening and learning from nonprofit organizations, racial equity leaders and food sovereignty experts to tailor strategic, neighborhood-level responses for each community.
The data paint a stark portrait of hunger. In Philadelphia, up to half of the residents of some neighborhoods can find themselves more than half a mile from a grocery store.
A similar story plays out in Detroit, where the Michigan Department of Agriculture has classified as many as 19 neighborhoods where a lack of grocery stores and a reliable transportation system can make it hard for those without a vehicle to find fresh, affordable food.
In Buffalo, most of the areas without adequate access to grocery stores are clustered in the city’s eastern neighborhoods, where at least 3 in 4 residents are people of color – a reminder that Buffalo remains one of the most segregated cities.
In Fresno, residents too often miss out on the healthy vegetable and fruit produced in their own agriculturally rich community. The United States Department of Agriculture identifies 93 census tracts in Fresno County where residents live more than half a mile (city) or 10 miles (rural) from the nearest grocery store.
In many places, life expectancy, the ultimate indicator of health and wellness, can span 20- to 30-year differences in nearby sections of the same city today, often depending on one’s race and ethnicity.
“One of the causes of poor health in many predominantly Black urban communities is lack of easy access to high-quality, fresh, nutrient-dense produce. Our programs, and others like it across the country, address this crisis by providing access to those essential foods,” said Malik Yakini, executive director at the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, one of the initial grant recipients. “Our programs also encourage community members to take action to create more equitable and healthier communities. Ultimately, we are striving to nurture a sense of agency within the young people so that they see themselves as having responsibility to make positive changes in their community.”
The full list of initial Strengthening Cities grant recipients can be found below.
A Sharpened Focus on Health and Racial Equity
Rite Aid Healthy Futures, originally launched as The Rite Aid Foundation in 2001 by Rite Aid, has supported children’s health and wellness for more than two decades. Yet Healthy Futures recognized the need to sharpen its focus when the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing racial equity movements in 2020 exacerbated the societal fault lines borne from systemic discrimination.
Children’s health remains the organization’s priority, with widened consideration and attention to programs and strategies related to quality education, good health, food access, stable housing and income opportunities – often referred to as the social determinants of health.
Rite Aid Healthy Futures already has begun to elevate and advance strategies addressing the root issues that prevent underserved and vulnerable neighborhoods from achieving health and wellness.
The charity officially rebranded itself as Rite Aid Healthy Futures this week, with a new visual look representing its caring, optimistic, wholehearted and intentional pursuit of progress. A new logo captures the human spark found at the heart of the communities and neighborhoods the charity serves, as well as the charity itself. All come together to generate positive change.
The charity’s new tagline – “Uplifting Our Neighborhoods Together” – speaks to how Rite Aid Healthy Futures will advance health, equity and opportunity in ways that respect the intrinsic values of the neighborhoods the charity serves.
“Our new identity is a commitment to do all we can to create a world in which everyone won’t just imagine – but live – a healthy future,” DeCamara said. “We recognize the long journey ahead to advance and achieve equity for our neighbors and neighborhoods. But we believe that by working together with our partners and Rite Aid customers, we can make positive change one city, one neighborhood, one person, one action at a time. We can all be the human spark that drives real progress and uplifts our neighborhoods.”