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Legislation Aims to Help Folks Stuck "Buying Their Dinner at a Gas Station"

The abundance at a well-stocked grocery store is only an ideal for some parts of Indiana. (ElasticComputeFarm/Pixabay)
The abundance at a well-stocked grocery store is only an ideal for some parts of Indiana. (ElasticComputeFarm/Pixabay)
June 13, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS – Congress is considering steps to bring healthy groceries to food deserts in Indiana and across the country.

Grocery stores work on a notoriously thin margin. And as Kate Howe, managing director of the Indy Hunger Network, points out, when some grocers close, the folks in impoverished rural and urban areas can end up forced into, as she puts it, "buying their dinner at a gas station."

"Often what they're left with is convenience stores and gas stations and fast food,” she explains. “You can't have a healthy community without healthy food, so if we want healthy people in our communities we have to help them get access to that food."

The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act is designed to provide incentives to keep or bring grocery stores with healthy offerings to neighborhoods and small towns without them.

Howe says Indianapolis has had a growing issue with food deserts. Democratic Rep. Andre Carson is one of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan legislation.

Supporters say keeping a grocery store also is hugely important to keeping communities economically healthy.

Howe says grocers are an anchor for a neighborhood – providing jobs, economic stability and other important connections beyond healthy food.

"Once a grocery store moves out of a community, then other services start moving out, and we end up with these areas of concentrated poverty,” she states. “If you're in a neighborhood where there's no bank, no grocery store, the folks that can afford to move out will. So it really does cause those neighborhoods to deteriorate."

Small, rural communities may lack the population to support a grocery store. When similar state-level legislation helped save some small-town groceries in Minnesota, store owners there say some local folks were "moved to tears" by the fact that their local grocer would stay open.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - IN