SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As many of her residents lack access to healthy foods, state Rep. Juliana Stratton, D-Chicago, is sponsoring legislation to help bring attention to food deserts –areas lacking stores that sell healthy foods.
“Many residents are forced to eat out at fast food restaurants or shop for food at gas stations that only sell junk and don’t stock fruits and vegetables,” said Stratton. “The result is that many residents’ health suffers from a lack of healthy options. We need to make critical investments in building an infrastructure of stores that carry healthy foods and farmers’ markets to allow people healthy food options.”
The Stratton-backed House Bill 3157 asks the Illinois Department of Agriculture to work with municipalities on identifying food deserts and to alert lawmakers as they arise. Currently, 450,000 Chicagoans, or roughly 17 % of city residents live in a food desert, with most of those affected largely concentrated in the southern and western parts of the city. Even when people many live close to a grocery store, people with disabilities and seniors face transportation and other barriers in doing their shopping.
“We must encourage accessible farmers’ markets, supermarkets and other reputable food retailers to open in food deserts,” continued Stratton. “That means greater investments in health and more economic incentives for the often overlooked neighborhoods in my district.”