Senator Todd Gardenhire announced to the Hamilton Place Rotary Club that he plans to sponsor legislation in the upcoming 2020 legislative session to help increase access to fresh food and reduce food deserts in Tennessee, particularly in the inner city.
Senator Gardenhire says he wants to incentivize grocery stores to locate in inner city areas that are considered food deserts, where access to affordable healthy food options is often limited because grocery stores are too far away. In many inner city areas, grocery stores have closed leaving communities with nowhere to go, but Senator Gardenhire said he wants to change this.
“When 21 percent of Tennesseans do not have access to affordable healthy food options, it is no wonder Tennessee ranks among the bottom states for obesity,” said Senator Gardenhire. “That’s why I intend to introduce legislation this year that will help increase access to healthy foods in inner city food deserts and also help educate citizens on healthy diets and food preparation. Ultimately, it’s my hope that attacking the issues of both access and education can facilitate lifestyle changes that will have an impact for generations to come.”
According to a study by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) 21 percent of the state’s population lives in areas considered food deserts – 15 percent in urban food deserts and 6 percent in rural food deserts.
Senator Gardenhire says the legislation will be community focused and hopes to utilize the Tennessee Department of Workforce Development to provide incentives to train community members to work in nearby food stores. He also wants to include the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to help provide economic incentives for grocery stores to relocate to inner cities.
“Food deserts have been a growing issue in inner city communities, and I hope to help provide some relief with this legislation," said Senator Gardenhire. "Combating this problem will be an ongoing effort for many years to come, but I look forward to working with communities and state leaders to find solutions."