SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — If you live in a rural area, you may have to travel far to get to a grocery store. But the Illinois governor has a plan for that.
One part of the State of the State address Wednesday was Governor J.B. Pritzker proposing the Illinois Grocery Initiative.
The Illinois Grocery Initiative is a plan to invest $20 million in local to fight food deserts to expand food access by opening more grocery stores in underserved communities. The governor also wants at least $2 million to go to buying produce from local farmers.
“The government at the state and local level has tried hard to attract big retail food chains to neighborhoods that need them with tax incentives and flashy ribbon cutting ceremonies,” Pritzker said. “But after the cameras leave, often so do the commercial chains, leaving poor rural and urban communities high and dry.
Local co-op workers at Mount Pulaski’s Market on the Hill say without their supermarket, their area would be a food desert.
“There’s a lot of people you know here in town who are elderly or they can’t get out of town,” Lorenne Wilhem, the general manager of Market on the Hill, said. “This is a good source of healthy food for them and a lot of people are just grateful to have the produce options and the meat options here when you can’t get any of that anywhere else in town.”
Most of their products they sell are also from the area.
“Our main focus is we want to carry and support as many local farmers as we can,” Wilheim said.
According to the USDA’s Food Access Atlas, dozens of areas in Illinois are still food deserts.