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The Illinois Food Marketing Task Force is calling on lawmakers to create a new “Illinois Fresh Food Fund” initiative to stimulate supermarket development in underserved areas across the state while simultaneously improving health in low-income communities and attracting significant private investment and jobs.
The fund is one of several recommendations put forth by a public-private partnership task force that includes representatives from business, community, civic, public health and nonprofit sectors, and city and state governmental agencies. State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16) and State Rep. William Davis (D-30) have been strong supporters of these efforts. Task Force members are urging legislators to approve $10 million for the new initiative.
The initial commitment of state dollars could leverage an additional $20 million in financing through private investment and other sources, according to the initiative’s supporters, whose ultimate goal is to encourage supermarkets to invest in underserved areas and, ultimately, ensure more Illinois communities have adequate access to nutritious, fresh food.
During the past year, the task force has focused on three key elements: the public health and economic development benefits that would result from enhancing access to supermarkets for Illinois residents; the challenges and barriers businesses face that prevent them from making these investments; and policy solutions to help remove those barriers and open the door to future business investment.
In addition to creating the Illinois Fresh Food Fund, the list of policy recommendations includes modifying existing economic development incentives to meet the needs of supermarkets and expanding job-training programs to ensure a quality workforce for supermarket and grocery store retailing.
The full list of recommendations will be released in a final report in June.