INDIANAPOLIS – A bill that would bring fresh and unprocessed foods to food deserts is moving forward in the legislature.
“This bill is designed to find an efficient way to get fresh and unprocessed food in areas where there is poor access to these people,” said the bill’s author Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport.
Senate Bill 15 passed the Commerce and Technology Committee unanimously Thursday.
The bill establishes the Food Desert Grant Program within the Indiana State Department of Health Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity to assist new and existing businesses and nonprofits to offer fresh and unprocessed foods within a food desert.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as parts of the country without fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods. Food deserts usually occur when grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers are not available.
Many organizations testified and are in support of this legislation including: the American Heart Association, IU Health, Indianapolis YMCA, Top 10 Coalition, the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and the Citizens Action Coalition.
“From our perspective, access to fresh and healthy foods is unobtainable for some people,” Danielle Patterson, the government relations director at the American Heart Association, said. “These types of initiatives are very important to our residents.”
Mike Delph, R-Carmel, raised concerns about how effective the program could be. Head responded by providing statistics of an organization in Philadelphia.
Head said the organization found “75 studies that say that there is a lower BMI in teenagers after these programs are put into place and that there is a definite correlation between better health.” He said studies show peopled had fewer diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, in areas where fresh food is easily accessible.
The bill now returns to the full Senate. If it’s signed into law it will be effective July 1.
Anastasia Gentry is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.