Right now, more than 2.5 million Floridians live in areas where it is difficult and sometimes impossible to buy fresh food – fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, seafood and lean meats. Research shows that living closer to healthy food retail is associated with better diets and decreased risk for obesity and diet-related diseases.
That’s why our top priority this legislative session – which started on Jan. 12 – is to pass Health Food Financing Initiatives, Senate Bill 760 / House Bill 153. The legislation would allow the State to provide a one-time appropriation of at least $5 million to be used to finance businesses that would place new grocery stores, or expand current stores, in food deserts in priority populations. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would set the criteria for the program and oversee the data collection and a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) would handle the financial aspects of the program.
Through this legislation, we can set up a private/public partnership as an investment to jumpstart an emerging market. The language in the bill has provisions that would direct the funds to small and local businesses rather than large chains. Grocers who have opened or expanded stores through Healthy Food Financing Initiatives have reported strong produce sales. This demonstrates that what is good for the health of families is also good for business, and that there is strong demand for fresh foods in underserved areas.
To date, the Healthy Food Financing bills have successfully passed their first subcommittee stops. We still have a ways to go through the legislative process! Stay tuned for future You’re the Cure alerts to find out how you can help.