The Alabama Senate voted today to increase the availability of healthy food to rural and impoverished communities throughout the state. Senate Bill 260, also called the Healthy Food Financing Act, by Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed will provide low-interest loans and grants to new or existing grocery stores that agree to provide fresh, nutritious sustenance to underserved areas in Alabama. The bill is aimed at eliminating “food deserts,” with the USDA defines as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.”
“People should not have to drive a dozen miles or spend hours on public transpiration just to buy fresh food,” said Senate Majority Leader Reed. “The Healthy Food Financing Act will help improve access to fresh, local produce and whole grains, which means a healthier Alabama.”
The Healthy Food Financing Act will combine existing state and federal resources to provide low-interest loans and grants for construction and expansion costs to new or existing retail stores in underserved communities throughout the state. Under SB260, retailers applying for the incentives must agree to dedicate a minimum of 30% of their facility for a period of five years to provide fresh or frozen dairy products, fresh produce and meats, and whole grains. Applicants must also agree to hire local residents and assist the state with the collection of data relating to the sale of fresh food.
“We are thankful to our Senate sponsor, Majority Leader Greg Reed, for championing healthy food access and working to bring healthy food closer to home for nearly half a million Alabama children. The Healthy Food Financing Act will reverse health trends, create new jobs, and boost local economies. This is a win for Alabama,” said VOICES for Alabama’s Children executive director, Melanie R. Bridgeforth, a supporter of the legislation.
Majority Leader Reed’s bill delegates oversight of the new incentives program to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Loans and grants will be awarded primarily based on the need of the community to be served, the size of the investment requested, and the probability of a positive impact on the local economy.
“This bill improve the health of Alabama’s most underserved communities and create job opportunities by encouraging business growth,” concluded Majority Leader Reed.
Senate Majority Leader Reed represents District 5, which includes all or parts of Fayette, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Walker, and Winston counties. He is vice president of Preferred Medical Systems, a supplier of Samsung ultrasound equipment. Sen. Reed is married to the former Misty Harbison, and they have three sons: Andrew, James and John Michael.