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MN Health Advocates Backing Plan to Expand Health Food Access

Health advocates say many Minnesotans don't have access to good foods. (iStockphoto)
Health advocates say many Minnesotans don't have access to good foods. (iStockphoto)
December 18, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As many people are planning for their next big holiday meal, health advocates say about 900,000 Minnesotans don't have access to affordable and nutritious foods. To help, several groups are backing an initiative called the Good Food Access Fund.

Lance Knuckles, community outreach director for the Community Reinvestment Fund, said the problem also includes about 200,000 kids in the state.

"A full 27 percent of Minnesota's youth between the ages of 10 and 17 are overweight or obese, due in part to the lack of access to healthy foods."

One of the goals of the Good Food Access is to provide low-interest loans and grants to businesses to help bring healthy foods to areas of the state that need them most.

In parts of rural Minnesota, Knuckles said, some people have to drive more than 30 miles to get to the nearest food store. This isn't just a rural issue, however, he said, because less access to healthy foods can lead to major health issues. That, in turn, costs Minnesotans more than $2 billion in obesity-related health care.

"For a 70-year-old widow living in Aitkin County or a family of four living in St. Paul," he said, "everyone has a right and privilege to access healthy foods. A lack of affordable healthy foods directly affects rates of obesity and diabetes, heart rate and other issues."

Knuckles said his group, along with the American Heart Association, is talking with lawmakers and communities from around the state to draft a formal version of the Good Food Access Fund. A bill could be introduced to the state Legislature sometime in 2016. A petition to support the move already has received more than 1,600 signatures.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN