Improving Access to Healthy Food in Illinois
Federal money will be used to help improve access to food for people in Illinois. The Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University will receive 200,000 dollars to address rural and urban "food deserts" across the state.
The institute's Program Manager, Sean Park, says one definition is living more than 10 miles from a grocery store in rural areas, or more than one mile away in the city.
"It's a problem everywhere. It's not just a midwestern thing although I find it particularly ironic that we're growing food but it's going away to be processed and then we have to drive 30 miles to go buy it after it's processed."
The institute helps small communities open grocery stores - the first was in Winchester in Scott County in 2018, then two more in 2020 (Toulon and Mt. Pulaski), and there'll be two more this year (Cutler and Cairo).
"A lot of times I'll go into these farm communities and say this is great but right now I can't buy a tomato in your county, and that's an issue. And that usually gets some folks on board where they go 'yeah you're right that is. You know we spend a lot time farming but I have to leave town to buy groceries.'"
He says the federal money will pay for a new position, plus help the institute conduct marketing surveys and provide legal help for opening stores
Park says you can't expect people to eat healthy food if they have no access to it.