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Congressman proposes legislation to address food deserts: ‘Where is the damn grocery store’

RICHMOND, Va. -- With construction booming in Richmond's Manchester neighborhood something remains missing: a full-scale grocery store.

"The only thing that's around here are fast foods or restaurants," AJ Brewer, owner of Brewer's Cafe, said.

We found one of the old grocery stores in Manchester, but it's now turning into a soda shop.

"It's been a desert ever since it's been just closed," Vincent Curtis, who lives in Manchester, said. "Restaurants, apartment buildings, gyms. Where is the damn grocery store? People have to eat."

The federal government calls this neighborhood and many others in Richmond, along with the entire United States, a food desert, which are communities that lack access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and they're usually found in impoverished areas.

Corner stores frequently serve as residents only food option.

"That's the soda, candy, beer, and cigarettes store," Curtis said.

"A lot of canned goods which is not good for you," Alfonso Backus, who lives in Gilpin Court, said.

But a local non-profit called Tricycle, which grows produce and distributes it in food deserts, along with Congressman Donald McEachin are working to address the problem.

"Richmond is known as the worst food desert in the country for a city our size," said Sally Schwitters, Director of Tricycle.

McEachin just proposed bi-partisan legislation to incentivize new grocery stores in food deserts.

It includes a 15% tax credit for companies that construct new grocery stores in food deserts, and a 10% tax credit for existing stores that make upgrades to their healthy food sections.

"I think it's fantastic. We need a multitude of approaches to tackle this issue," Schwitters said.

The proposed legislation would also give tax credits to food banks that build in food desert and non-profit mobile markets or farmers markets.

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