Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
Food deserts are not limited to urban areas. They are not limited to Cook County. Or to Illinois. Instead, they exist throughout the United States. Nearly 39.5 million people or 12.8% of the U.S. population are living in low-income and low food access areas.
Food deserts are frequently found in areas of high poverty. These areas are characterized by smaller populations, abandoned or vacant homes, low incomes, and high rates of unemployment. Urban food deserts, where convenience stores and corner shops are prevalent, are a disproportionate reality for Black and minority communities.
In an effort to situate Farm Bureau in a position to actively engage in conversations related to food access and food deserts, at the end of 2022 Illinois Farm Bureau® delegates approved Farm Bureau’s first ever food access policy. The language for this policy was introduced by the Cook County Farm Bureau®.
This policy was later incorporated into federal Farm Bureau policy providing Farm Bureaus across the country with the opportunity to engage in conversations to address food access.
The policy includes support for:
Incentives, including but not limited to, offering tax credits or breaks to grocery stores in underserved areas.
Policy development to support grocery stores and neighborhood-based farmers’ markets.
Simplifying the process for permitting and launching grocery stores.
Increasing the use of third-party and digital platforms for all approved Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers providing that benefits are not used for service fees or delivery charges. Increasing SNAP approved food sales outlets.
Farmer cooperatives to provide services such as crop marketing, distribution, guidance on partnering with food banks, and farmer training.
The aggregation of farm products and partners to connect institutions, municipalities, school districts, hospitals, community-based organization, government agencies, and other groups to provide produce to families living in food deserts.
Farms connecting directly with food banks, food recovery organizations, and other distributing nonprofits.
This policy enabled Cook County Farm Bureau to support Commissioner Donna Miller’s ordinances #22-5345 and #23-1644 to provide incentives to and retain grocery stores located in food deserts within Cook County. It also enabled Farm Bureau to engage in conversations regarding Representative Mary Beth Canty’s House Bill 3554 which would provide food access grants to renovate grocery stores located in food deserts.
The availability of healthy and nutritious food is a concern not only for farms and the Farm Bureau, but for all citizens.
To learn more about Farm Bureau’s policy not only on food access but on a variety of issues impacting Cook County, visit https://cookcfb.org/ccfb/policy-and-action/urban-agriculture.