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Illinois Lawmakers Considering Grants for Grocers

Lawmakers are considering creating a grant program that would send state dollars to grocers in Illinois communities that have few options for buying food.

Senate Bill 850 would direct the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, or DCEO, to establish the “Grocery Initiative,” a program that would study “food deserts” in Illinois and provide grants to new or existing grocery stores in these areas. The grants would be available to grocery stores that are organized as independently owned for-profits, co-ops and nonprofit organizations as well as grocery stores owned by units of local government.

“It’s incredibly expensive to run a grocery store,” said bill sponsor Rep. Mary Beth Canty, D-Arlington Heights. “It takes a lot of product and your margins are very thin.”

The initiative was first introduced in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which called for $20 million to fund the program. Canty, who is sponsoring the proposal in the House, said she will continue to work on it in the next two weeks as lawmakers craft next year’s budget.

Canty said she views the proposal as a way to interrupt violence and alleviate some of the root causes of crime.

“Without food security, people are desperate and desperate people do desperate things,” Canty said.

Source : The Intelligencer