Round table addresses need for access to healthy food

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Monday, First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe participated in a round table discussion at FeedMore in Richmond.

During the “Closer to my Grocer” event, state lawmakers and others involved the food system emphasized the need to bring relief to the commonwealth’s food deserts and communities with food insecurity.

“It’s a complex, challenging problem,” said the First Lady.

In Virginia, more than 1.7 million people live in a food desert, or low-income area with limited access to supermarkets.

McAuliffe said 930,000 Virginians are food insecure. Children make up nearly 300,000 of that.“Making sure that all Virginians have access to high quality, nurturing food helps drive our bottom line as an economy, it helps ensure the public health of our citizenry and makes sure that we’re economically secure,” said McAuliffe.

The panel, which also included Del. Dolores McQuinn (D-Richmond), Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County) and Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore, focused on the need to create the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund.

The fund would set up public-private partnerships to help grocery stores open in under-served areas.

“These communities where most of the food deserts exist are hungry, literally, for more opportunities,” said Haymore. “If you give people the chance to have wholesome, healthy food…they’ll be better. They’ll have opportunities to give more back to the community.”

Stanley and McQuinn plan to sponsor bipartisan legislation to create the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund during the next General Assembly session.

“For every one dollar that the commonwealth of Virginia contributes to this investment fund, we get $3 of investment capital,” said Stanley.

Stanley said they will likely propose $5 million go into the fund as a starting point.

McQuinn said food deserts and food insecurity is a narrative that needs to be changed and can be changed.

“Partnership is the answer to the challenges that we are facing,” she said. “And then making certain we are involving those who are impacted the most are at the table to help make decisions for their lives.”

Stanley assured the crowd the two would work to get legislation passed.

“I promise you, we will make sure this will be the law of the land in the commonwealth of Virginia in 2018,” he said.

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