Introduction of the Food Deserts Act

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 28, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARSON. Mr. Speaker, today I am reintroducing the Food Deserts Act of 2023 to help fight hunger and food insecurity in communities across the country.

As we end Black History Month, I'd like to focus on the problem of food insecurity and how it disproportionately hurts Black and Brown families.

I want to share just one example. In June of 2017, Marsh Supermarkets grocery stores announced the closure of many stores throughout the Midwest. Many of these stores were in my district. Many families lacked a car or reliable public transportation to the nearest grocery alternative, often over a mile away. Today, thousands of my constituents are still struggling to find the food they need, with many forced to rely on fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.

These options are neither healthy nor affordable.

Sadly, this situation is not unique. Over 29 million people, almost 10 percent of the U.S. population, live without ready access to affordable, nutritious food, and over 2 million people have no transportation to get to their nearest store. Many have seen their local stores close during the pandemic. Others lost access years ago and now face the severe long-term impacts of obesity, diabetes, malnutrition, and other diet-related ailments.

Unfortunately, residents in these low-income areas tend to spend less on groceries, leaving little financial incentive for traditional grocery chains to make costly investments for new locations.

In the world's wealthiest country, nutritious food should be an expectation, not a luxury. That is why I am reintroducing the Food Deserts Act, which creates new avenues to fund stores in underserved communities. This bill will create USDA-funded, state-operated revolving funds that will issue low-interest loans for the operation of grocery stores in food deserts. The bill ensures that recipients of these loans, including for-profit, non-profit, and municipal entities, can provide affordable, healthy food, including fresh produce and staples like milk, bread, and meat. It will also ensure that USDA professionals are available to provide technical assistance to recipients who need it.

Access to healthy food is something that most of us take for granted. But despite our own experiences, we must remember that millions of our constituents struggle daily to feed their families. With this market- driven approach, I aim to complement existing federal programs and efforts nationwide by ensuring a stable lending stream for struggling grocery stores and sustainable access to food for communities in need.

Mr. Speaker, I invite my colleagues to support this vital bill.