In tightly packed urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas, fresh and healthy food is unavailable to many Americans. Lawmakers hope to remedy that.

By Mark Winne
September 2007

Whether you live in an urban or rural community, access to fresh produce and meat is a basic need,” says Pennsylvania Representative Dwight Evans in sizing up an issue that is finding its way on to the agendas of America’s state legislatures.

As traditional food stores have disappeared over the last 40 years, millions of Americans find themselves living in so-called “food deserts”-places that, compared to more prosperous communities, are underserved by affordable, high quality retail food outlets. And like a host of problems that affect a community’s economic well-being and the health of its residents, legislatures have begun searching for the most appropriate policy remedies.

Although the problem may be universal, the solutions are not. “People who live in areas where not everyone owns a car or must travel long distances to reach a good food store, are keenly aware of the need for accessible and affordable food markets,” Evans says. But trying to “re-store” poor urban neighborhoods or sparsely populated rural counties requires significantly different approaches. Private advocacy organizations have joined forces with businesses and lawmakers to find creative solutions.