pexels daria shevtsova 1095550CHICAGO – Neighborhoods like Englewood, Woodlawn and others across the state suffer from food insecurity, an issue to be addressed thanks to a new law championed by State Senator Mattie Hunter, which expands access to healthy foods across Chicago communities and statewide.

The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity estimates that 500,000 Illinoisans have limited or no direct access to local stores.

“There are too many Illinoisans eating poorly simply because they don’t have access to healthier food,” said Hunter (D-Chicago). “Food insecurity is one of the issues I’ve been fighting for a long time, and I am confident that this law will help to end food deserts in our state.”

The new law creates the Healthy Food Development Program, which will provide financial assistance to grocery stores, corner stores, farmers' markets, and other small food retailers in order to help provide healthy food to communities.

Priority will be given based on projects with the greatest potential effect on expanding access to healthy food in eligible underserved areas.

The Whole Foods in Englewood, which sits in the district Hunter represents, recently announced its closure, which will leave the community with only two grocery stores south of Madison Street in Chicago. This new law would help soften the impact of that loss, providing the community with assistance in accessing more food.

“Food deserts can be traced back to redlining, which is rooted in racism and classism,” Hunter said. “Addressing food insecurity is a health issue, a wealth issue, and a race issue. We must do better to provide equal access to quality foods for our residents.”

The Healthy Food Development Program will be collaborative effort of the Department of Human Services, DCEO, and other state agencies.

House Bill 2382 was signed into law Thursday is effective immediately.