Community members working to end 'food desert' in NE Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) A group of community members works to end what they call a "food desert" in an area of northeast Wichita that lacks a grocery store or a health food provider.

The group is trying to get a full-service grocery store near 13th and Oliver, the spot where a Walmart Neighborhood Market stood a few years ago. A furniture store now occupies the space of the former grocery store.

At Tuesday's Wichita City Council meeting, the group addressed the issue.

"We should be able to invest in our youth and make sure they have healthy foods on a regular basis and make sure it's convenient for their parents to get it for them," Wichita resident Lawanda Deshazer says.

Three members of the NAACP Youth Council also spoke of the need for a grocery store in the city's first council district.

The term "food desert" applies to an area in an urban community that is one mile or more away from the nearest grocery store. In 2017, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R) Kansas was one of four bipartisan senators who introduced a bill aimed at putting an end to food deserts.

The bill, the Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act, would create tax credits and grants for businesses and non-profits that serve areas in food deserts. In order to qualify for this, businesses must be certified as "special access food providers" by the treasury department and the USDA, the bill says.

The Department of Agriculture estimates about 37 million Americans live in food deserts.

“Living in the breadbasket of our nation, we can often forget how prevalent hunger and the lack of access to healthy food in our own communities can be,” Sen. Moran said after the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act in 2017. “However, hunger and food insecurity are very real and threaten nearly 1 in 6 Kansans."