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NY Senator: Let’s Fight Obesity by Developing Around Farmer’s Markets

11:00 AM PDT on April 14, 2010

Her approval rating on the rise
amid a difficult election battle, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) joined
the president's campaign against childhood obesity this week by
proposing $1 billion in loans and grants to build healthier
neighborhood grocery stores and farmers' markets.

food_desert_1.jpgThe view from one type of "food desert." (Photo: Springfield Institute)

legislation, co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY),
aligns with the $400 million healthy food plan included in
the 2011 White House budget. Both programs would follow the template of
Pennsylvania's Healthy Food Financing Initiative by offering loans and
grants to help construct new grocery stores, farmers' markets, and
other food outlets in historically under-served neighborhoods.

The bill aims to eradicate the growing phenomenon of "food deserts,"
the moniker advocates have bestowed on lower-income areas -- in New
York and Chicago as well as in more rural areas -- where the lack of
access to fresh food leaves residents dependent on sugary, fattening
fast-food alternatives.

Traveling outside a food desert is
often impossible without a car, an option out of reach for many of the
neighborhoods' most needy residents.

Research on travel behavior conducted by the University of California-Davis' Susan Handy found that
in areas where markets and other stores were one-fifth of a mile or
less from most homes, 87 percent of residents regularly walked to run
errands. When that average distance between home and market increased
to three-fifths of a mile, the share of even periodic foot travelers
dropped to one-third.

Gillibrand's office also highlighted the job-creation potential of healthier food access, estimating in a release that the $1 billion grant program would create 200,000 new jobs nationwide and 26,000 in New York City.

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