Senate Bill Introduced to Eliminate Food Deserts
U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) have introduced the first comprehensive legislation in the U.S. Senate to eradicate food deserts by enlisting the aid of such food providers as grocers, retailers and nonprofit organizations.
The bipartisan Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act would create a system of tax credits and grants for businesses and nonprofits serving low-income and low-access urban and rural areas, where, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), an estimated 37 million Americans live.
“The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would incentivize food providers to establish themselves in communities where people lack access to healthy, affordable food by encouraging the construction and establishment of grocery stores, food banks and farmers markets,” explained Moran.
“Every person should have access to affordable and nutritious food regardless of where they live,” added Warner. “By incentivizing food producers to go into communities where food access is a problem, we can help guarantee that fresh fruits and vegetables are available in the places where they are needed most.”
“Independent retail supermarkets and the wholesalers that supply them play a vital role in the communities they serve through access to food items and as a contributor to the local economy,” noted Greg Ferrara, SVP of government relations and public affairs for the National Grocers Association (NGA), based in Arlington, Va. “The National Grocers Association has long supported the bipartisan efforts to find solutions to address the lack of food access in rural and urban areas and working towards strong private-public partnerships to address the barriers to entry faced by grocers in these underserved communities.”
Along with NGA, other organizations supporting the legislation include Feeding America, Food Marketing Institute and Share Our Strength.
To qualify for a tax credit or grant for servicing qualifying food deserts, business and nonprofits would have to be certified as a “Special Access Food Provider” (SAFP) by the U.S. Treasury Department and USDA, based on such criteria as new store construction in a food desert and retrofitting an existing store’s healthy food sections.
The full text of the bill is available online.