Supporters of a bill that would expand access to healthy food rallied at the Statehouse this week. They are pushing for lawmakers to establish a healthy food financing initiative.
Currently, legislation that would create a program to help businesses and non-profits increase fresh food access in underserved areas doesn’t have any state money attached.
Naima Gardner with the Indiana Healthy Food Access Coalition says they’re really hoping for a one-time $3 million government investment that would then move it to the state’s Housing and Community Development Authority.
They would partner with a community development financial institution and would use a lot of innovative methods to grow that fund using other public funds and private funds as well.
Gardner says a Healthy Food Financing Initiative is a proven solution to bring food and jobs to communities. It does this by providing grants and loans to retailers, non-profits and entrepreneurs to innovate ways to increase fresh food access.
Republican Sen. Randy Head authored the bill, Senate Bill 277. He says there’s more support than ever this year.
“It’s still an uphill fight because some people look at this as another welfare program, and we spend a lot of time convincing them that’s not what it is,” says Head.
The Indiana Healthy Food Access Coalition rally included representatives from the American Heart Association as well as local food councils. They want lawmakers to consider the bill with a plan for state money attached.
Head says this is an important proposal.
“This is not just a feel good bill, this is important policy. Healthy food is good public policy,” Head says.
According to the USDA, 500 Indiana neighborhoods are considered food deserts.