Northeastern Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan is joining a bipartisan effort to address the problem of food deserts.
The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would set up a system of tax credits and grants for businesses providing healthy food options to low-income urban and rural areas.
Ryan says food deserts have a big impact on health, and that has a big impact on the economy.
"So I think that if we put a little more money up front for prevention, and then I think we will save a lot of money in the long run on the healthcare costs,” Ryan says. “But at the end of the day it’s about having businesses that can make a profit, and if we can use the tax code in order to do that and get our people healthy, that’s a win-win for the taxpayer and that’s a win-win for the families who can stay healthy and go to work."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 37 million Americans live in food deserts - defined as an urban area where grocery stores aren't available within a mile, or 10 miles in rural areas.
To qualify for the grants, about a third of the store’s selections must include fresh produce, poultry, dairy and deli items. New stores will get a onetime 15 percent tax credit, while existing stores that improve their offerings will receive a onetime 10 percent tax credit.
The bill, S.1724, was introduced into the U.S. Senate in August and referred to the finance committee. For the U.S. House version, Ryan is co-sponsoring with Pennsylvania's Rep. Ryan Costello and Rep. Dwight Evans and Virginia's Rep. A. Donald McEachin.