Grocery startups now can apply for state funding

Grocery startups now can apply for funding allocated in last year’s $20 million Illinois Grocery Initiative aimed at preventing and eliminating food deserts in Illinois.

The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which is administering the grants, is accepting applications in the second round of funding, which will provide a combined $14 million to grocery stores looking to open in Illinois food deserts.

The agency also is reviewing applications for the first round of programming rolled out earlier this year that could partially fund a total of $3.5 million of equipment upgrades at select stores across the state.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Illinois Department of Public Health estimates more than 3 million Illinoisans are unable to access good food because they might not have enough money, time or reliable transportation to go shopping. Research published by the National Academy of Sciences found that living in food deserts can lead to poor health outcomes.

At the launch, hosted in the aisles of a soon-to-be community co-op grocery store in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, 46th Ward Alderwoman Angela Clay said as a mom, she understands how important it is to have “healthy food on the dinner table, and at breakfast time or at snack time.”

“And there are a lot of families where their reality is they are eating out of a liquor store, they are eating out of a gas station,” said Clay. “And we understand that the long-term effects that has on a family or as a child can be detrimental.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed an additional $10 million in funding for the initiative in next year’s budget. A bill sponsored by Sen. Doris Turner, a Springfield Democrat, could expand the initiative to include farmer-owned grocery stores, as well.

For more information about the grants and application process, visit the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website.

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