Budzinski Highlights Food Access Needs in Hearing with Secretary of Agriculture

Mar 29, 2023

WASHINGTON — This week, Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski (IL-13) highlighted food access needs in Central and Southern Illinois during a congressional hearing with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack. During the hearing, Budzinski relayed her concerns that the recently announced closure of the Cahokia Heights Walmart will worsen an already existing food desert for local residents. 

WATCH: Budzinski Questions Secretary Vilsack on Food Access, Beginning Farmers

“Every family deserves access to healthy, affordable food options. But the closure of the Cahokia Heights Walmart will reduce food access in an already underserved community,” said Congresswoman Budzinski. “I’ve signed on to support the Food Deserts Act – which would support the operation of grocery stores in areas with limited food access – and I’m pushing to ensure that the Healthy Food Financing Initiative receives full funding in the upcoming budget to provide financial assistance to projects opening or expanding grocery stores where they’re most needed.”

The Food Deserts Act would provide USDA funding for state-operated revolving funds to issue low interest loans for the operation of grocery stores in communities with limited food access. The bill ensures that recipients of these loans, including for-profit, non-profit and municipal entities, will provide affordable, healthy food, including fresh produce and staples like milk, bread and meat. It also ensures that USDA professionals are available to provide technical assistance to recipients who need it.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative works to improve access to healthy foods in underserved areas, create and preserve quality jobs and revitalize low-income communities. The program aims to build a more equitable food system by providing financial resources to eligible healthy food retail projects and food supply chain enterprises to overcome the high costs and initial barriers to entry in underserved areas. 

WATCH: Budzinski Questions Secretary Vilsack on Food Access, Beginning Farmers


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