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Food deserts will be tracked with annual report

Friday, Dec 1, 2017

* HB3157, which was signed in September

Tracking food deserts. The Department [of Public Health] shall provide an annual report to the General Assembly by December 31 of each year that identifies the locations of food deserts within the State and provides information about health issues associated with food deserts. If the annual report contains information from the federal government that identifies the locations of food deserts in the State and provides information on health issues associated with food deserts, then the requirements of this Section shall be satisfied. For the purposes of this Section, “food desert” means a location vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, in part due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, or healthy food providers.

* Illinois Public Radio

Representative Sonya Harper, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the legislation, says many communities in and out of Chicago have gone generations without the option of fresh food in their neighborhoods. As a result of this, she says, “…we have a lot of people dying in our communities simply from preventable, diet-related diseases. And I believe it’s because they lack access, it’s because fruits and vegetables are not something that’s easy to come by in their community.”

The information gathered could help bring food stores to neighborhoods where they are needed, and in turn help create jobs.

“And again—just trying to figure out ways—how do we bring in more sources for fresh food, and perhaps even jobs—at that right?” Harper says, “because there is an opportunity as well, for those food retailers to also spur some local economy and bring some more jobs.”

Over the last few years, residents in food deserts have responded by creating communal gardens and urban farms to teach each other how to grow their own food.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

39 Comments
  1. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 5:20 am:

    What a waste of time and money. Why not track heroin deserts where people cannot buy heroin?

    If there is a chance for profit the product will be supplied. If there are government policies or regulations that make it hard to supply good food, examine those policies and regulations. Otherwise, let the market work.


  2. - Tryin' to - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 5:22 am:

    “..a lot of people dying in our communities simply from preventable, diet-related diseases.”

    Yes, because they eat too much, not too little.

    America — only country in the world where the “poor” are morbidly obese.


  3. - PublicServant - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 6:16 am:

    ===let the market work===
    Were you eating a nice healthy apple, or maybe a ceasar’s salad when you said that?

    ===If there are government policies or regulations that make it hard to supply good food, examine those policies and regulations.===
    Please identify which ones they would be, and why their existence doesn’t prevent the availability of healthy alternatives to Fritos, Cheetos, and Twinkies within walking distance in other communities.

    If the private sector can’t manage to supply conveniently-located, healthy food to a community, the government needs to step in.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 6:23 am:

    Well, that explains the extra bar code on the 4 Cannoli I bought last week…


  5. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 8:03 am:

    Public Servant. My diet no longer includes apples and Caesar salad. I have a lot of cookies and ice cream. No cannolis.

    Did the city prohibit street vendors and food trucks? Do theft and security costs make stores unprofitable? Those problems government could address. Vacant city own owned lots can be used as public gardens.


  6. - Perrid - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 8:13 am:

    It took much longer than I want to admit for me to realize we were talking about deserts instead of desserts…


  7. - Montrose - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 8:17 am:

    “Otherwise, let the market work.”

    This argument assumes that markets are rationale actors making decision on complete information. They are not. They are just as susceptible to bias as any one of us. A lot of assumptions have been made about poor communities of color that have led to decisions about where to place stores.

    “America — only country in the world where the “poor” are morbidly obese.”

    The ignorance in this sentence is astounding. No acknowledgement of the dynamics of poverty, the cost of food, how violence and safety concerns impact health, and how we have built systems that perpetuate these problems. Just blaming the victim. That makes it easy for you and those that think like you to avoid taking any responsibility in helping find solutions.


  8. - Food Fraud - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 8:19 am:

    The definition of a “food desert” is ridiculous. If 500 people in a census track live more than 1 mile from a major grocery store the entire census track is considered a “food desert”. According to this definition I’ve lived most of my entire life in a food desert. I can tell you that I never longed for a banana or apple. A simple google search will shows that almost all residents of the city are within about 1.5 miles of a large grocery store. If you look at the link, it certainly appears that the 10 mile radius for rural people is a much bigger challenge.

    http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts

    If you want to get the poor to eat better maybe LINK cards should only be able to be used for things like eggs, bread, milk, fruit and vegetables instead of things like pop and ice cream. If there was less demand for unhealthy foods, there would be less supply.

    How silly is it that there was no soda tax on people buying pop with a LINK card. If it is so bad, we are we subsidizing the sale in the first place?


  9. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 8:25 am:

    To the Post,

    This line is as important as identifying the areas. It clearly laying out what the term “food desert” means;

    ===For the purposes of this Section, “food desert” means a location vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, in part due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, or healthy food providers.===

    There are areas that have “convenient stores” or other food stores or storefronts, but making clear that the location and the rationale within that location to be considered a desert must both be looked at in tandem, not just location x, y, or z… or rationalizing the level of what a desert is. Both need examination, then both the location can be serviced better with ways the public and private sector need to work better, and the charge of both the public and private sector can work to make better the location of the desert, and do it within a framework to discharge that label.


  10. - Ron - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 8:26 am:

    Food Fraud is correct about LINK. Why in the world would we allow the money to be spent on anything but healthy food?


  11. - Merriam W. - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 8:27 am:

    Vapid of? That’s an odd phrase, even for a bill.


  12. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 8:30 am:

    Markets do not require complete information or all actors to be rational to work. They do require customers willing and able to pay enough for vendors to make a profit.

    A lot of effort goes into site selection for stores. Assumptions are challenged.


  13. - Anon221 - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 8:31 am:

    The report shouldn’t be that hard to develop each year. The work has mostly been one by the federal government, unless Trump decides to shut that work down, too. Take some time and really zoom in on the map of Illinois. I think you might be really surprised at the results. The Fulton County area was a surprise for me. Remember, this is about the intersection of Income and Access.

    https://www.fns.usda.gov/tags/food-desert-locator

    https://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert

    https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/go-to-the-atlas/

    How the local convenience store can help:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/cornering-the-market/386327/

    And, as to using vacant lots, yes that works, but only after the lot’s soil has been tested (if there’s any soil at all) for heavy metals and other contaminants. Turing a vacant lot into a community garden is not something done just by pointing the lot out to the local residents and saying,” Have at it.” It needs to be part of a totally integrated program that teaches about the soil, plants, growing techniques (straw bales, raised gardens, etc.), how and when to harvest, how to prepare meals from the harvest, and how to conserve part of the harvest for later use.

    http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2017/06/01/community-garden-flourishes-north-lawndale

    Green Top Grocery in Bloomington is located next to the Beer Nuts Factory near downtown. This was a food desert until they came in.


  14. - phocion - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 9:01 am:

    Most grocery chains are getting in the delivery business. Legislators often create an “issue” to show they’re doing something. Let the market work.


  15. - Texas Red - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 9:06 am:

    Of all the misguided legislation that Springfield has proposed this one is doozy. Assuming that the bureaucracy of Springfield will assist the deployment of private capital is a joke. Grocery stores move to where they can make money. There are many market research options out there, FMI and Nielsen are just two that provide grocery retailers info on where to deploy capital.


  16. - Farm Bill Fan - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 9:22 am:

    =If you want to get the poor to eat better maybe LINK cards should only be able to be used for things like eggs, bread, milk, fruit and vegetables instead of things like pop and ice cream. If there was less demand for unhealthy foods, there would be less supply.=

    Three reasons this idea doesn’t work:
    1)Evidence shows that families who receive SNAP purchase more healthy food than families who are eligible but don’t receive SNAP.

    2)The average SNAP benefits divided by each meal is about $1.40. How many healthy, balanced meals can you prepare on $1.40?

    3)Limiting the foods someone can buy to just the SNAP staple items (dairy, produce, and protein) actually makes healthy food less accessible in areas considered “food deserts”. It’s not just a matter of supply and demand. It’s especially difficult to provide fresh food in convenient stores in rural areas because they may not have enough cold storage or they don’t get deliveries often enough to have a consistent inventory or fresh fruits and vegetables.


  17. - Ron - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 9:47 am:

    Frozen vegetables are fine.


  18. - cdog - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 9:47 am:

    Is it reasonable to suggest there is a correlation between food deserts and crime?

    It’s my understanding that businesses, like chain groceries, leave certain areas for very certain reasons.

    It seems this HB3157 is more about a symptom, which needs to be treated, but again, this comes down to inner city crime and the horrible damage it does to innocent residents.


  19. - Ron - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 9:48 am:

    Farm Bill Fan, your post makes no sense. Why would you allow doritos to be purchased? Twinkies? Soda?


  20. - Amalia - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 9:49 am:

    the concept is very big in the city of Chicago but as a way to encourage development in minority communities because the original definition of a food desert included income. this ignored areas where there were a fair amount of the elderly who did not have something within walking distance but the area was not considered impoverished. an expert once told me, well those folks have cars. nonsense.


  21. - Farm Bill Fan - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 9:57 am:

    Frozen vegetables need to be stored in a freezer. It costs more to store them then it does to store shelf-stable items.

    My point was a response to the assumption that, by restricting what people can buy with SNAP funds, you somehow shift the demand to healthier foods. That argument doesn’t work because the problem of access to healthy food is way more complicated than supply and demand.


  22. - Robert the 1st - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:02 am:

    =That argument doesn’t work because the problem of access to healthy food is way more complicated than supply and demand.=

    Um, yes it would. SNAP is a huge money maker for business. Limit its use to certain foods, the store will have those foods overflowing. Those customers tend to not cut coupons or care about price comparing.


  23. - 47th Ward - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:05 am:

    No dessert until all your vegetables are eaten. That’s the law in my house and it sounds like the General Assembly is thinking about taking it statewide.


  24. - Anon221 - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:10 am:

    Robert the 1st- “Those customers tend to not cut coupons or care about price comparing.”

    Really??? Care to cite some statistics with that inflammatory comment???


  25. - Robert the 1st - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    I wasn’t trying to be inflammatory. I was just citing why they’re often a target customer for business. Whatever item qualify for SNAP will always be well stocked.


  26. - Ron - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    Farm Bill, I call BS. A freaking freezer? Literally every mom and pop convenience store I have ever stepped foot in has at least one.


  27. - Ron - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:18 am:

    “by restricting what people can buy with SNAP funds, you somehow shift the demand to healthier foods.”

    This makes absolutely no sense. Are you arguing that the LINK money won’t be used? That’s fine with me.


  28. - Ron - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:20 am:

    If someone has no money and is hungry, my hunch is they will buy healthy food with the LINK card. They can still buy a bad of cheetos if with their own money.


  29. - Ron - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:21 am:

    How about canned veggies?


  30. - Anon221 - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    Robert the 1st- Then a report like this might start helping make changes, such as what can and cannot be used for LINK purchases. Don’t load this all on the backs of consumers. It’s a much more complex issue than that. Use the map from ERS and take some time to think about life in those areas. Access to good food is only one issue people there face. It can’t be summarized down to clipping coupons.


  31. - Robert the 1st - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:31 am:

    =Don’t load this all on the backs of consumers.=

    I don’t. They don’t lobby for the junk food, the companies that make and sell them do. They also lobby hard to make sure the public can’t see how much they make from it.


  32. - DuPage - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:34 am:

    @- cdog - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 9:47 am:

    ===Is it reasonable to suggest there is a correlation between food deserts and crime?===

    I think it is a factor. I have heard from employees of some large chains that financial loss from stores in bad areas is significant. Armed security is expensive, stores being robbed and customers being robbed in their parking lots makes customers shop elsewhere.


  33. - Anon221 - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    Robert the 1st- Then is report just might be a ray of political sunshine that will help. If a legislator wanted some recognition by the voters who live in these food deserts, then he/she might want to focus on those areas, and ignore any “twinkie” lobbyist that might come a knockin’. Healthy foods and access to them can help turn neighborhoods around. Crime, poverty, childhood and elderly health problems, education- all of these revolve around our the foundation of our basic needs. We can either let the foundation crumble, or we can build on it, as Maslow’s pyramid outlined.


  34. - Just Me - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 10:42 am:

    Chicago should pass a law that requires paying grocery store employees a lot of money, so then there will be lots of people who want to work for the grocery store. That will solve all the problems with not enough grocery stores.


  35. - 47th Ward - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?


  36. - Southside Markie - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 11:46 am:

    Agree that this is a big waste of money. Food deserts are indeed an issue. Finding where they exist isn’t the problem. It’s readily apparent. Getting a reputable grocer to operate there is. The money would have been better spent creating an incentive for grocers to operate in food deserts.


  37. - ArchPundit - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 4:14 pm:

    ===Food Fraud is correct about LINK. Why in the world would we allow the money to be spent on anything but healthy food?

    Talk to ADM and other agribusiness about it.


  38. - ArchPundit - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 4:15 pm:

    ====Most grocery chains are getting in the delivery business. Legislators often create an “issue” to show they’re doing something. Let the market work.

    How will that work in areas where people have less access to typical banking and credit cards?

    The point is the market isn’t working. If you want to claim that is because there is not enough profit that makes exactly the point the government should act.


  39. - Toothpicks and Ice Cream - Friday, Dec 1, 17 @ 4:19 pm:

    @Last Bull Moose 8:03am
    ===Vacant city own owned lots can be used as public gardens.===

    Not if the alderman actively takes away the lots with existing community gardens on it.


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