belt 033023SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Christopher Belt advanced a measure through the Senate Thursday to tackle the increasing number of food deserts in Illinois.

“People should be able to have easy access to healthy and affordable food at all times,” said Belt (D-Swansea). “By providing financial assistance to grocery stores, we can incentivize the establishment and expansion of stores in areas that are considered food deserts.”

Under this legislation, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity would be required to provide grants and other forms of financial assistance to privately-owned grocery stores and grocery stores owned by a unit of local government, school district or community college district, located in or to be located in a food desert.

This measure aims to help mitigate the issue of food deserts across the state. In 2021, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued a study that found that 807 census tracts are considered food deserts, meaning urban residents have to travel more than a half mile and rural residents must travel more than 10 miles to get to the nearest grocery store.

“This is an important step forward in addressing the issues of food deserts in Illinois,” said Belt. “Not only would this measure support grocery stores in communities that need the most help, but it could improve economic development as well.”

Senate Bill 850 cleared the Senate Thursday and now heads to the House for further consideration.