Fowler Chief Co-sponsored bill to address food deserts now law

A new law Chief Co-sponsored by State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) to address food insecurities and deserts across the state of Illinois is now on the books following a bill signing event by the Governor in Venice on Friday. 

The first of its kind, this $20 million investment will open and expand grocery stores in underserved rural towns and neighborhoods, as more than 3 million people live in food deserts across our state.  

“This new law serves as a critical resource and lifeline to those who have been impacted by food deserts across our state,” said Senator Fowler. “Access to fresh, nutritious food can be hard to find, especially in the 59th District and it’s important we squash food insecurities as a direct result of this problem. I worked closely with the University Illinois Extension in compiling data from surveys addressing the challenges our many family-owned grocery stores owners face, sadly in my district I have one entire county without a single grocery store.” 

Senate Bill 850 creates the Grocery Initiative Act requiring the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to study food insecurity in urban and rural food deserts. The new law will further expand access to healthy foods in food deserts across the state by providing grants and technical assistance to independently owned for-profit grocery stores as well as grocery stores owned and operated by local government units. 

“Nobody should have to drive hours to access healthy produce, and the Illinois Grocery Initiative will provide reliable food access to families living in food deserts,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards.“Investing in new and existing grocery stores will spur economic development in the communities that need it the most.”

Through the Illinois Grocery Initiative, $20 million will be invested in addressing these food deserts.  SB850 gives hope by providing opportunities for relief to qualifying stores such as capital funds for infrastructure, renovation projects, grants for energy efficient equipment, business plan development, marketing, community engagement and much more.  

The new law goes into effect January 1, 2024.

Dale Fowler

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