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Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation to Fight Food Insecurity and Increase Availability of Healthy Options

Press Release - Thursday, June 09, 2022

New program creates opportunities for grocery stores to receive financial assistance to expand operations

CHICAGO - Governor JB Pritzker today announced the establishment of the Healthy Foods Access Program, furthering the administration's efforts to provide equitable access to healthy food in every corner of the state.

"All Illinoisans deserve access to healthy foods," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Especially throughout the pandemic, food insecurity has been a major concern in our underserved communities. It has always been my administration's mission to ensure that no child, no family, no elder goes without the food they need to stay nourished and healthy. That's why I am proud to sign this bill into law to bolster the health and wellbeing of our residents while transforming food deserts into food oases."

"No one should wonder where their next meal is coming from, but this is a reality for far too many people. Food insecurity is severely impacting the most vulnerable—children, college students, and seniors—who often live in our most underserved areas," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "I am so proud that our state is taking a holistic approach to fighting food insecurity by uplifting the work of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger, along with collaborative efforts between state agencies, private partners, and community stakeholders that will launch this amazing program to increase access to fresh, nutrient-dense food."

"Affordable and healthy fresh food is a necessity of life," said House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch. "Every person and child deserves access to nutritionally balanced meals and this legislation helps our state provide that, especially for systematically disadvantaged communities. I want to thank Representative Sonya Harper for her continued passion in creating a sustainable food supply for communities in need."

"This measure is necessary to ensure that our communities have access to food that will nourish their bodies and cater to their overall wellbeing," said State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago). "Food insecurity is one of the issues I've been fighting for a long time, and I am confident that this law will help end food deserts in our state, starting with addressing the gap left open by the departure of the Whole Foods in Englewood. Our communities need access to affordable, nutritious food now."

"Residents on the South and West sides of Chicago, as well as elsewhere in our state, continue to struggle to find places to buy healthy and affordable foods," said State Representative Sonya Harper (D-Chicago). "This has contributed to health disparities and even shorter life expectancies in these areas. I applaud Governor Pritzker for signing The Healthy Food Access Development Program into law today. Food is medicine and everyone deserves a right to access it. I'm hopeful this new law will help strengthen our small businesses and create new options for healthy food in our most vulnerable communities across the state while bringing in food and jobs to those that need them most."

"There are too many neighborhoods across our state where people do not have access to fresh, healthy food," said State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria). "Let's take advantage of our nutritional, locally-sourced food and spur connections with communities that have been left behind. Healthy food can have immense benefits for an individual, but we have to make sure it's easily available."

"One of the best ways to promote healthy lifestyles and overall wellness is to ensure access to nutritious, well-rounded food options," said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). "By bringing these options to communities across the state, we empower residents to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families."

"The Healthy Foods Access Program is a tremendous step towards increasing the availability of nutritious food for Illinois communities and people at the greatest risk of food insecurity," said Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and co-chair of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger. "Too many of our neighbors lack sufficient access to healthy and culturally relevant food options. This initiative will open the door for more locations where Illinois residents and families can receive the food they need to thrive, while also creating economic opportunity and jobs that can alleviate the root causes of hunger."

House Bill 2382 enables the Department of Human Services in coordination with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to establish the Healthy Food Development Program to expand access to healthy foods in underserved areas. Grocery stores, corner stores, farmers' markets, and other small retailers may receive assistance through grants, loans, equipment, or other financial assistance to be awarded on a competitive basis.

While the exact program design has not yet been established, too implement the program, DCEO and DHS may partner with non-profit organizations on implementation and DHS will designate a grocery ambassador to assist the state's healthy food retailers by providing research and data on eligible areas with insufficient grocery access. Through this ambassador, small grocery retailers in the state will be provided technical assistance and support.

The establishment of this program builds on the administration's efforts to increase access to healthy food in the state. These efforts include public-private partnerships to expand purchasing options for those who receive SNAP benefits, empowering the Illinois Commission to End Hunger to advance the From Food Insecurity to Food Equity: A Roadmap to End Hunger plan, a three-part strategy for connecting residents in need to nutrition assistance programs, and promoting equitable access to food for every Illinoisan.

In Cook County alone, one in six children experience food insecurity on any given day. Statewide, 17 percent of children live in poverty. Federal programs, such as SNAP, School Breakfast and summer meal programs, are widely underutilized. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, 1.6 million Illinoisans were participating in SNAP. During the initial months of the pandemic, SNAP applications soared to over 35,000 applications a week, up from an average of 9,000 weekly. In April 0f 2020, food insecurity doubled in the population overall and tripled for Illinois households with kids. In addition, Illinois has seen a 60% increase in food insecurity for older adults during the pandemic.

This legislation is effective January 1, 2023.

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