State Representative Ryan Spain was a pivotal vote to help pass legislation during the Spring Session to combat food deserts, creating the Grocery Initiative Act. Spain voiced his support for Senate Bill 850 on the House floor prior to the vote. Areas that qualify as food deserts are now eligible for grants and support from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).
Many smaller downstate communities have felt the negative impacts of losing their local grocery stores, and this legislation will help make sure that is less likely to happen in places like the village of Sheffield (pop. 851) in Bureau County. Sheffield has loyally patronized a grocery store, Royal Food Mart, for the last 82 years, owned and operated by the Winger family.
“In the world of grocery stores, we’re seeing major issues that this bill will correct,” Spain stated. “I think this is a very important initiative that will be beneficial in rural communities like Sheffield. When a community loses their grocery store, they lose the identity of their community. And they lose one more reason to retain population and keep families in their community.”
Thanks to this new legislation, the Winger family can turn over the business to a not-for-profit entity, with Cornerstone Community Wellness taking over store operations and qualifying for support from the state. Royal Food Mart closed last November but is expected to re-open this summer better than ever, with a building makeover and improvements being done thanks to resources from the Grocery Initiative Act being supported by Rep. Spain. Other nearby communities, including Toulon in Stark County and Toluca in Marshall County, have also struggled recently to attract and keep small town grocery stores, and this legislation is designed to help with those issues.
For video of Rep. Spain speaking on the House floor in support of SB 850, Click Here.