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Rep. Tim Ryan Co-sponsors Bill To Reduce America's Food Deserts

Adora Namigadde
Campbell's Market opened in October as the only grocery store in Vinton County, which went four years without any supermarket.

Northeastern Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan is joining a bipartisan effort to address the problem of food deserts.

The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would set up a system of tax credits and grants for businesses providing healthy food options to low-income urban and rural areas.

Ryan says food deserts have a big impact on health, and that has a big impact on the economy.

"So I think that if we put a little more money up front for prevention, and then I think we will save a lot of money in the long run on the healthcare costs,” Ryan says. “But at the end of the day it’s about having businesses that can make a profit, and if we can use the tax code in order to do that and get our people healthy, that’s a win-win for the taxpayer and that’s a win-win for the families who can stay healthy and go to work."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 37 million Americans live in food deserts - defined as an urban area where grocery stores aren't available within a mile, or 10 miles in rural areas.

To qualify for the grants, about a third of the store’s selections must include fresh produce, poultry, dairy and deli items. New stores will get a onetime 15 percent tax credit, while existing stores that improve their offerings will receive a onetime 10 percent tax credit.

The bill, S.1724, was introduced into the U.S. Senate in August and referred to the finance committee. For the U.S. House version, Ryan is co-sponsoring with Pennsylvania's Rep. Ryan Costello and Rep. Dwight Evans and Virginia's Rep. A. Donald McEachin.