Lawmaker pushes to help “food deserts”


GREENE COUNTY — Many of us take food for granted, but some find it hard to get fresh fruit and vegetables. Now one lawmaker is working to change that.

This is what a “food desert” looks like: a community that lacks grocery stores and farmers markets. Representative Sonya Harper (D – Chicago) says there are too many of these across the state and they go unnoticed.  

“The people in my communities are not dying from crime or violence or bullets, but they are dying from preventable diet-related diseases,” says Harper.

This is not just a problem in urban areas. In some rural communities, there’s only one grocery store or none at all. It forces people to travel for miles for basic food necessities.

“All of the reputable groceries stores and food and convenience stores have left the community,” says Harper, “leaving us with nothing, but these corner stores and gas stations.”

In Greene County, people are turning to food pantries as their last options. People who live in food deserts say they often have to make tough decisions.

“I’m on a pension and, you know, it goes just so far and that’s it,” says Mary Woodhouse. “Like they say, you either eat or buy your medicine.”

A bill in the Statehouse would help people in these situations. It would track food deserts across the state and notify lawmakers the areas need help. However, some people say more needs to be done.

“We need jobs in this area, first off,” says Richard Caskey, “There’s no market here for the kids. A lot of part-time jobs, but they don’t have full-time jobs.”

Caskey, a food pantry volunteer, believes, if more opportunities come to the area, the community will grow.  Eventually, people will become less dependent on food pantries.

“Is food not the basic necessity of life? You can’t breathe, you can’t think, you can’t operate as a normal individual.”

Representative Harper says once the bill is passed, she will look for more solutions. 

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