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Legislators Tackle Food Deserts

Access to fresh produce is a challenge for communities across the state.

Legislators moved to address the issue by passing bills that advocates say would improve food systems in underserved areas.

1.7 million Virginians, including 480,000 children, live in low-income neighborhoods where grocery stores are few and far between. That’s according to the Virginia Food Access Coalition.

This year the group is rallying behind Delegate Delores McQuinn and Senator Jennifer McClellan. They’ve proposed legislation to put $3 million towards relief for food insecure families.   "The bill has one main goal, which is to provide fresh foods to those who are in food deserts," according to Chelsi Bennett. Bennett co-leads the Food Access Coalition and says the money would go towards loans and grants for food retailers.  "That can be a farmers market, a mobile market, a grocery store, a co-op, a corner store. "

The measure is also designed to increase the number of retailers that can double SNAP dollars for customers who purchase produce. 

A bill to create a grocery investment fund died last year, in spite of bipartisan support. 

Meanwhile advocates are waiting to see if senators sign off on Delegate Sam Rasoul’s proposal to create a grant program for farmers markets and local food producers. 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.