New bill could help thousands in Scott have more access to healthy food

Nick Shepherd • Updated Aug 21, 2017 at 11:18 AM

Nearly 8,000 Scott County residents live in a food desert, where the nearest grocery store is more than 10 miles away.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va, would like to change that. Last week, he stopped in Danville to highlight bipartisan legislation he introduced to help more people have access to fresh and healthy food, according to a press release.

“More than one million Virginians find themselves in low-income areas with no reliable source of healthy food, placing themselves at higher risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease,” he said in the release. “Every person should have access to affordable and nutritious food regardless of where they live. By incentivizing food producers and sellers to go into communities where food access is a problem, we can help guarantee that fresh fruits and vegetables are available in the places where they are needed most.”

Warner’s bill, called the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act, seeks to eradicate food deserts in rural and urban areas by offering incentives to food service providers. The bill would provide grocers, retailers and nonprofits with tax credits and grants to build in these underserved communities.

According to the release, the USDA estimates 37 million Americans live in a food desert, which is defined as an area where a grocery store is not available within a mile in urban communities and 10 miles in rural areas.

The bill would expand the definition of a food desert by adding U.S. Census tracts with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher or a median family income of less than 80 percent of the median for the state or metro area. It would also define a grocery market as a retail sales store with at least 35 percent of its selection dedicated to selling fresh produce, poultry, dairy and deli items, the release stated.

Grants and tax credits would be awarded to food providers who construct new stores in a food desert or retrofit existing structures, food banks which build new structures and temporary access merchants such as farmers markets.

As defined by the bill, 7,959 individuals in Scott County and 9,566 in Wise County live in a food desert.

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