U.S. Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) has authored a bill that he hopes will combat the spread of food deserts.
Carson is expected to discuss his Food Deserts Act at a press conference March 24 at the Edna Martin Christian Center in Indianapolis.
“We’re very excited about it,” Carson said. “It will go a long way to address hunger in the wealthiest nation in history.”
According to notes provided by Carson’s Communications Director Jessica Gail, the act seeks to make it easier to open a grocery store in an area identified as a food desert.
If the bill is passed, the Department of Agriculture will provide grants to each state. The states will then distribute loans to for-profit or non-profit entities to open a grocery store in an underserved area. Loans will also be granted to existing supermarkets in underserved areas to increase the quality of their selections.
Carson says to be considered for loan money, these groups will need to meet several criteria. The most successful groups will focus on providing fresh and unprocessed food, fruits, vegetables and staple foods.
According to the notes, “priority will be given to applications that include a plan to hire workers from the underserved community, provide information about a healthy diet, do not sell alcohol or tobacco products, [and] source food from local farms and gardens.”
Each state government will be required to issue the loans at or below market interest rates for terms no longer than 30 years. Payments of principal and interest will return to the fund to be redistributed as new loans.
The act calls for an initial investment of $150 million to be divided between the 50 states. The states with higher percentages of underserved communities will receive more funding. States will be required to provide a 20 percent match of whatever federal grant they receive.
“Underserved communities have a higher rate of hunger and poverty,” Carson said.
With this bill, Carson says he is hoping to change that.