New IL grant program combatting food deserts

A new program from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is increasing access to fresh food to areas in need.

Jason Horwitz, senior economic advisor, says grants will be offered through the “New Stores in Food Deserts” initiative…

“To organizations, businesses, even local units of government, are eligible to apply to start a new grocery store in an area that’s been designated a food desert, both in rural areas and in urban areas,” he says.

He says it goes beyond brick and mortar to also include specialized DCEO support.

“To make sure that they have extra help in business planning, in helping resource their food products, and helping with hiring,” he says, “to make sure that they have all the tools and the knowledge they need to really survive.”

Horwitz says at least a dozen new stores are expected to be developed through the grants. 

Southern Illinois specialty grower Austin Flamm, who operates Flamm Orchards in Union County, tells Brownfield…

“I hope these programs are something that can be considered sustainable.”  He says, “It’s a great way to keep the money home. It’s a great way to improve the economics of your farms and the people working on them. It’s a great way to provide essential food to the people that need it.”

The new grants are part of the first year of the 20-million-dollar Illinois Grocery Store Initiative.  Governor J.B. Pritzker has proposed an additional 10 million dollars for the initiative in his fiscal year 2025 budget. 

AUDIO: Jason Horwitz on “New Stores In Food Deserts” grant

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