Ryan introduces bipartisan bill aimed at eradicating food deserts

Will Kreznick

If passed, the legislation would offer tax credits and grants to businesses. WASHINGTON — U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., have introduced bipartisan legislation to incentivize food service providers such as grocers, retailers and nonprofits to help eradicate food deserts. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, […]

If passed, the legislation would offer tax credits and grants to businesses.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., have introduced bipartisan legislation to incentivize food service providers such as grocers, retailers and nonprofits to help eradicate food deserts.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 20 million Americans live in food deserts, or areas in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.

The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would set up a system of tax credits and grants for businesses and nonprofits who serve low-income and low-access urban and rural areas.

“Our food system is broken and ineffective,” Ryan said in a news release. “In a country where obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing, and where over 20 million people live in food deserts, we cannot allow the status quo to continue.

“This legislation takes a big step in the right direction towards accomplishing that goal,” Ryan said. “Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes economic sense to tackle a food system that is at the root of so much of our sky-high health care costs.”

The National Grocers Association and Bread for the World support the legislation.

“The National Grocers Association applauds House members for their efforts to remove obstacles to expanding access to nutritious food for rural and urban communities without a supermarket,” Molly Pfaffenroth, NGA’s senior director of government relations, said. “Independent community grocers are leading the way to help those most in need of better food options.

Heather Valentine, director of Government Relations of Bread for the World, said, “Better food options lead to stronger communities, and we look forward to working with Congress on this important bipartisan legislation. Bread for the World is once again excited to see a bipartisan effort to address food deserts and improve access to nutritious food in low-income areas across America. 

To qualify for a tax credit or grant for servicing qualifying food deserts, businesses and nonprofits must be certified as a Special Access Food Provider by the Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would qualify as SAFPs those businesses and nonprofits who service food deserts through the following:

  • New store construction: New grocery stores in a food desert would receive a one-time, 15 percent tax credit (of the property plan and construction) after receiving certification from a regional CDE and Treasury/USDA as an SAFP.
  • Retrofitting existing structures: Companies that retrofit an existing store’s healthy food sections could receive a one-time, 10 percent tax credit after the repairs certify the store as an SAFP. 
  • Food banks: Food banks that build new (permanent) structures in food deserts, would be eligible to receive a one-time grant for 15 percent of their construction costs, after certification as an SAFP. 
  • Temporary access merchants: Mobile markets, farmers markets and some food banks that are 501(c)(3)s would receive grants for 10 percent of their service costs for that year. 

For a map of areas in the United States that would qualify to be served as food deserts under this bill, click here

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