Davisson: Addressing food deserts

Posted by: Lindsay Devlin  | Friday, February 12, 2016

The first half of session was a productive period for the House of Representatives. We passed legislation focusing on our legislative agenda, which includes funding roads and infrastructure, supporting educators and combating illegal drug problems in our communities.

Moving forward, I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to carry bills that have passed through their chamber. A senate bill that I am sponsoring, and a house bill that I co-authored this session, focuses on offering healthy food options to impoverished areas. It is my belief that this legislation, if enacted, would combat food scarcity in our state.

Senate Bill 15 would create a grant and loan program through the Indiana State Department of Health’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (DNPA). Grants and loans would be awarded to businesses and communities that exist within a “food desert,” an area where affordable or high-quality fresh food is scarce. The bill would require the DNPA to establish criteria for granting loans and how businesses can use the funds. After the grant has been used, the agency would evaluate the impact of the program and submit an annual report to the General Assembly, which would be tasked with assessing the efficiency of the system.

House Bill (HB) 1077 is similar to the Senate proposal addressing food deserts. Although this bill is no longer moving through the legislative process due to its fiscal impact, it may be considered next session. HB 1077 although similar to SB 15, had several notable exceptions. This legislation would have established a healthy food loan and grant program regulated by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA). Funds would have been offered to supply fresh and healthy food to underserved communities. The bill categorized an “underserved community” based on reports from the United States Department of Agriculture. In order for an organization existing in these areas to receive a grant or loan, the applicant would have needed to convey their ability to successfully implement the project in their community and pay off the loan. The IHCDA would have been responsible for monitoring the programs and reporting to the legislative council regarding the system’s impact.

Hoosiers deserve access to fresh and healthy food options. I appreciate your thoughts and opinions on this and other issues affecting our community. Please contact me with input or questions at 1-800-383-9841 or by email at h73@iga.in.gov.

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 Rep. Davisson represents parts of Washington, Orange, Lawrence, Jackson, Clark and Harrison Counties.