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How Gov. Pritzker plans to solve the food and grocery desert crisis

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — More than 26,000 people in Peoria are food insecure, that’s 14.3%. Governor JB Pritzker has a plan to implement $70 million in helping needy families get healthy and cheap food.

“This budget proposes increasing temporary assistance for Needy Families, TANF, by $50 million so our families have more help to cover basic necessities,” said Gov. Pritzker.

At this week’s State of the State Address. Gov. Pritzker proposed another $20 million, on top of the $50 million, to launch the Illinois Grocery Initiative. It’s a plan that would assist independent grocers to open or expand grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods. He also wants to invest an additional $2 million toward purchasing healthy, nutritious food from Illinois farmers.

“It does no good to provide a family with more money to purchase food if they have no local grocery store to shop at,” said Gov. Pritzker.

This is why one Peoria man is trying to make an affordable grocery store in Central Illinois.

“We’re out to get rid of the food desert crisis in Peoria’s Southside and with a hope and a vision of being able to do it in the other area of ​​our community, which is the North and East Bluff,” said Pastor Chuck Brown , who’s working to open Harvest. Brown’s plan is to open Harvest as a grocery store with cheap and healthy food, as well as a hub for two small restaurants.

He has a vision of catering to the food desert and the food insecurity in the South end of Peoria.

“You can expect the type of prices you would see in an Aldi’s or Save-A-Lot, we will be very competitive and that way, people will be able to save money,” said Brown. “We will be doing a lot of creative things, such as offering rides to the supermarket.” Brown also plans to place a food pantry in the store.

Brown said, by opening the grocery store in the food desert in the Southend, may even help reduce crime. “The best way to me, to reduce crime, is when you can create an environment conducive to growth, development, peace, and joy.”

Dave Koehler, Illinois State Senator for the 46th district, said Pastor Brown’s vision is exactly what Central Illinois needs.

“This is the kind of thing a program like this is designed to do, is to take people who have natural instincts and natural desires to do something good in our neighborhoods, and let’s put them together with some resources,” said State Senator Koehler.

Koehler said he thought the impact of the possible funding would be huge for Peoria. “I think this is going to have a tremendous impact upon Peoria, other urban areas that have food deserts in them, I think it’s going to have an impact on isolated communities in the rural areas.”

The Governor’s proposal is just a recommendation. Nothing can be done with the budget until it passes through the house and the senate.