On Monday Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) introduced legislation to combat ‘food deserts’ prevalent throughout urban and rural communities across the United States.

fresh-produce4-featured.jpgA food desert is a large and isolated geographic area where mainstream grocery stores and access to fresh produce are absent or distant.  The legislation would invest $1 billion through loans and grants to help build approximately 2,100 new grocery stores in high need areas across the country.

“Obesity and diabetes rates are reaching crisis proportions in our country and it is time to take aggressive action,” said the senator.  According to Gillibrand’s Website, the legislation, entitled the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, would provide start-up grant and loan investments in some of the most marginalized communities in order to expand access to fresh food and create sustainable, well-paying jobs.

Gillibrand and Velazquez will work with First Lady Michelle Obama on the initiative as part of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” program, which aims to combat childhood obesity.

On a local level, Gillibrand said, “Millions of New Yorkers do not have access to fresh, healthy food.  By building new grocery stores in under served areas across the state we can give people the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives, save billions in health care costs, and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.  I am proud to work with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on their efforts to combat obesity in America.  We cannot back down from this fight.”

Of the issue, Velazquez said, “Low income communities face higher incidences of obesity and diabetes and a big part of the problem is the lack of access to healthy foods.  This initiative is about empowering families to make healthier food choices so they live longer.”

The issue affects both urban and rural communities where it contributes to public health woes. Residents in many low-income communities lack consistent and reasonable access to nutritious and non-processed foods which exacerbates the prevalence of obesity and heart disease.  Gillibrand believes the legislation will help fight obesity by making fresh produce and other nutritious foods more readily available.