State Sen. Gardenhire Wants to Create Incentives for Grocery Stores to Open in Urban Areas, So Called ‘Food Deserts’

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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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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.
Background Photo “Tennessee Senate Floor” by Terrancec. CC BY-SA 3.0.




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2 Thoughts to “State Sen. Gardenhire Wants to Create Incentives for Grocery Stores to Open in Urban Areas, So Called ‘Food Deserts’”

  1. When I lived in Germany about 30 years ago, at least once a week a truck came through the village and a bell was rung and all kinds of produce was sold from the back of the truck. Sometimes a different kind of truck came that miscellaneous household items were sold from, in addition to food, and sometimes live chickens were sold from these trucks! These days, grocery stores deliver…what if somebody figured out how to bring the food to the people if they can’t get the people to the food? How bad is this problem in Nashville? It seems like there is a Family Dollar or Dollar General within walking distance of most places. What about paying people to maintain a community garden? Or encouraging people to grow food in containers at their homes if they don’t have a good garden plot?

  2. William R. Delzell

    I am all for putting more grocery stores and food co-ops in low-income neighborhoods. In addition to providing more affordable nutritious food, it can provide more employment opportunities for jobs with a decent income for local residents. Make sure they are accessible by public transit so that one does not have to rely on their car for access. This is especially crucial for those of us without cars.

    It is my understanding that several decades ago in Knoxville, TN, a prominent Republican mayor, Cas Walker (who also owned a chain of local grocery stores) placed several of his stores in black and poor-white neighborhoods providing local residents there with more job opportunities and affordable nutritious food. This action contributed to Walker’s popularity at that time. As long as he delivered on good jobs and affordable food in poor and working class neighborhoods, people voted for him and were willing to overlook some of his eccentricities.