WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joined with Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to introduce the Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act. The legislation aims to expand access to affordable and nutritious food in areas designated as “food deserts” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“Many Americans living in rural communities—including those in West Virginia—have difficulty accessing fresh and nutritious foods. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation, which will go a long way in helping to improve access to groceries and healthy foods across West Virginia and make it easier for businesses and non-profit organizations to serve our rural communities,” Senator Capito said.
According to recent data from the USDA, nearly 40 million Americans live in food deserts, areas defined to be without grocery stores within one or more miles in urban regions, and ten or more miles in rural regions. Studies have shown that Americans who live in communities with low-access to healthy food options are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Additionally, according to USDA’s own study, people of color are more likely to reside in a food desert.
In an effort to eliminate food deserts in the U.S., the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would provide incentives to food providers to expand access to healthy foods in these underserved communities and reduce the number of food deserts nationwide.
Specifically, the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act, which defines a grocery market as a retail sales store with at least 35 percent of its selection (or forecasted selection) dedicated to selling fresh produce, poultry, dairy, and deli items – would spark investment in food deserts across the country that have a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, or a median family income of less than 80 percent of the median for the state or metro area. It would grant tax credits or grants to food providers who service low-access communities and attain a “Special Access Food Provider” (SAFP) certification through the U.S. Treasury Department. Incentives would be awarded based on the following structure:
- New Store Construction – Companies that construct new grocery stores in a food desert will receive a onetime 15 percent tax credit after receiving certification.
- Retrofitting Existing Structures – Companies that make retrofits to an existing store’s healthy food sections can receive a onetime 10 percent tax credit after the repairs certify the store as an SAFP.
- Food Banks – Certified food banks that build new (permanent) structures in food deserts will be eligible to receive a onetime grant for 15 percent of their construction costs.
- Temporary Access Merchants – Certified temporary access merchants (i.e. mobile markets, farmers markets, and some food banks) that are 501(c)(3)s will receive grants for 10 percent of their annual operating costs.
The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act boasts the support of numerous organizations, including Feeding America, the National Grocers Association, Share Our Strength, and Bread for the World.
Bill text for the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act can be found here.