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Kaiser Permanente Helps Supermarket Bloom in Food Desert

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 30, 2014

"It's called market failure and there are countless cases of when the market left to its own devices doesn't always produce the socially desirable results," Solomon says. "How else would you explain that there are large concentrations of people who are not served by a full-service grocery store and who have money to spend."

And Solomon insists that the new market is not some pie-in-the-sky do-gooder scheme that will require a permanent subsidy or go out of business.

"The important thing to understand is that there is this workforce development grant but it is a loan they got based on an economic analysis that that loan can be replayed," he says. "Those investors in the Fresh Works Fund include banks and people who want a return on investment. That is the opportunity. How can we, with a little bit of grant money and a lot of technical assistance and communications with the market operators and the Fresh Works Fund folks, create a new economically viable model that produces health and wealth for an entire community that has been left out of the economy? It's not a free lunch."

Encouragement for Other Communities
Of course, KP is not your typical community hospital. It is a massive, deep-pocketed integrated health system with resources that most providers can only read about. Solomon says that a lack of immediate resources shouldn't stop any providers from pushing for healthy food in their communities.

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