Legislators search for ways to help areas with limited food access
For years, communities in Chattanooga have faced the growing issue of food deserts, areas where people have limited access to grocery stores and healthy food options.
Senator Todd Gardenhire (R – District 10) is looking for solutions. Gardenhire announced plans to bring new grocery store options to the Chattanooga area.
He says the legislature can do this by giving chains incentives to bring their stores to food deserts in the city.
"Just like we give an incentive to Volkswagen or an incentive Fed-Ex or anybody else to locate in an area to create jobs,” he said. “I think it's just as important to give an incentive to a company to locate in an area where there's not any food stores."
In neighborhoods like Orchard Knob and Avondale, major grocery stores are few and far between. Many people also have limited access to transportation, forcing people to shop at convenience stores or higher priced local markets.
"They can't get to the grocery stores because they're too far away,” Gardenhire said. “So they're forced to buy at a neighborhood local market where they've marked it up pretty good because they have to."
Gardenhire says the next step is to find out how much it would cost to attract major store chains.
“I'm going to have to sit down with some of the grocery store chains and say what's it cost you to put a store in a neighborhood, what can you afford to do,’” he said.
But the plan goes even further. Gardenhire wants to see stores hire from within the community to create jobs. He also emphasized the importance of improving the flexibility of public transportation. It’s a 360-degree approach that Gardenhire says will drastically improve the quality of life for his constituents.
"They'll get healthier food than buying food at a convenience store. Nothing against convenience stores, but that's not where you want to fix dinner from,” he said.