A recent report suggests Cincinnati set-up a $15 million fund to attract grocery stores to city neighborhoods that are currently described as food deserts. These are geographic areas with low access to affordable, healthy food.
A study finds there are 24 supermarkets in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, putting the region below the national average by about 10 stores.
It shows as a result, lower-income residents in some areas have to rely on expensive and limited corner stores, or travel long distances to shop for food. Those same residents also typically have diets that rely on fast food too.
Council Member Wendell Young has been working on the food desert issue. His Rules and Government Operations Committee heard a presentation last month.
“The most obvious thing is you get grocery stores into these neighborhoods. And if you do that, you can begin to reverse this trend,” Young said. “And then how do you do that? They suggest that it be a partnership between governments, between the private sector that work together to bring grocery stores to these neighborhoods.”
That partnership involves setting up a fund to help attract grocery stores to neighborhoods without them.
But Young said it's not targeted at big chains like Cincinnati-based Kroger.
“You’re talking about bringing in an independent grocer, someone with a proven track record, someone who knows what they’re doing, someone who can get the job done,” Young said. “But again would not be able to just come in and do it on their own, they would need to be attracted.”
The study also found neighborhood grocery stores can create jobs for residents and spur other economic investment for related businesses like banks and dry cleaners.
Cincinnati officials will likely be asked to contribute money to the investment fund.
But Young said he's not sure when that request will be made.
In February 2012, the expanded City Food Access Task Force was asked to study ways to establish financing mechanisms in order to incentivize new retail food establishments that will offer healthy and nutritious food to residents of Cincinnati’s food deserts.