State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-TN-10) wants to boost inner-city and rural access to fresh food to fight “food deserts,” The Chattanoogan reports.
Gardenhire made the announcement Monday to the Hamilton Place Rotary Club. The Hamilton County senator said he wants to provide incentives for grocery stores to open in the inner-city.
The senator made reference to a Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations report from January that found 21 percent of Tennesseans live in an area considered to be a food desert. Fifteen percent live in an urban food desert, while 6 percent live in rural food deserts.
The TACIR report is available here.
Residents in “food deserts,” or areas with lowered access to healthy food, “tend to have a less nutritious diet and poorer health outcomes than those living in other communities,” the report says.
Also, according to the report:
While not always limited to food deserts, a variety of policy alternatives have been implemented in states and communities around the US to both improve access to and encourage the consumption of healthy food, including improving transportation to and from healthy food retailers, bringing the food to the customer through mobile markets or food delivery, providing vouchers for fruits and vegetables, emphasizing education to encourage healthy eating, and offering grants to give residents healthier options for food and exercise.
The TACIR report also says it is expensive to open grocery stores, so the state should focus on using existing resources to help communities create solutions to fit their local needs. The report also says a state program to encourage the creation of food stores may not be necessary, but if the state did implement the program, it should be a public-private partnership and use consumer education.
Gardenhire said he will work on “community focused” legislation in the coming session, the Chattanooga Times Free Press said. The Tennessee Department of Workforce Development could provide incentives to train people to work in nearby food stores, as well as economic incentives for stores in urban districts.
“Food deserts have been a growing issue in inner-city communities, and I hope to help provide some relief with this legislation. Combating this problem will be an ongoing effort for many years to come, but I look forward to working with communities and state leaders to find solutions,” the senator said.
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