During the 84th Texas Legislative Session, the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign led efforts in support of the Texas Grocery Access Investment Act (HB 1485 and SB 1590), which would have provided grants and low interest loans to retailers to open new stores or renovate existing stores in low and moderate-income urban or rural areas. The goal of the bill was to improve the health of Texans without access to healthy food by addressing the lack of grocery stores in underserved communities throughout Texas. To learn more about why grocery access is so important to Texas’ health and economy, please read this article authored by American Heart Association volunteers.
The bill would have created a financial tool, the Texas Grocery Access Program, for grocers to construct, refurbish or expand stores in areas of the state where better access to healthy foods is needed. The program would have worked in collaboration with the private sector to increase healthy food options and create local jobs. This public-private partnership would have been based at the Texas Department of Agriculture, which would contract with a non-profit or community development financial institution to administer the program.
This legislation was championed by authors Representative Eddie Rodriguez of Austin, Representative Patricia Harless of Spring, Representative Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs, Representative Borris Miles of Houston, and Representative Chris Turner of Grand Prairie. In the Senate it was authored by Senator Judith Zaffirini of Laredo and Senator Royce West of Dallas.
The House version of the bill (HB 1485) passed out of the Economic and Small Business Development Committee and was amended during second reading. Unfortunately, HB 1485 as amended narrowly failed to pass the Texas House in third reading. The Senate version of the measure (SB 1590) was referred to the Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs Committee, but the legislative session ended before the bill was heard in committee. The legislation’s budget rider, at its final request amount of $5 million, was not included in the budget passed by the House and Senate.
The momentum created by You’re the Cure volunteers helped move this legislation far in the process, raise awareness for the issue of access to healthy food options, and garner new supporters in the Capitol. Beyond the 84th Legislature, the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign will continue fighting to bring healthy food options to all Texans, and is grateful for your continued support!