Food access is a big problem across the country – and major grocers who promised to invest in high-need communities have failed to meet their goals. The Dec 7th article “Grocery chains leave food deserts barren, AP analysis finds” shows that large food retailers avoid building stores in food desert communities. Only 250 of 10,300 new food retailers between 2011 and first quarter of 2015 were located in neighborhoods that did not already have a large grocery store. The residents of these neighborhoods rely on dollar stores and small convenience stores for food – and very few of those stores offer affordable healthy foods like fresh produce, low-fat dairy, and lean meats.
This report illustrates why addressing food access and food insecurity through policy change is so important. We have been working on HB 250/SB 296, The Healthy Small Food Retailer Act/Healthy Corner Stores Act at the North Carolina General Assembly – and we have more to do to make this bill a reality. We need your help – tell your lawmaker to support healthy corner stores!
More than 1.5 million North Carolina children and families need better access to healthy foods. When people have to travel a long distance to buy healthy food, they are much more likely to suffer from obesity-related conditions. In fact, one in three children in our state are either overweight or obese, and children are getting diagnosed with a range of preventable health problems that weren't previously seen until adulthood, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
HB 250, The Healthy Small Food Retailer Act/Healthy Corner Stores Act, would help address food access in high-need communities. Building upon pilot projects conducted around the state, it would provide education and marketing assistance to small convenience store owners to help them offer a wider selection of healthy foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, low-fat and non-fat milk, leaner meats, and seafood. Where possible, these foods could be provided by our own farming community, giving local farmers another market for their products. It is a win-win-win for our communities, our store owners, and our local farmers.
The American Heart Association is working to make sure that funding for HB 250 is included in the state budget when the General Assembly is in session next spring. This bill can make a big difference - all North Carolinians should have access to healthy and affordable food. Contact your lawmaker today!