Columbia Mayor pitches city-funded food delivery program for food deserts

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Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 7:06 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control labels large tracts of Columbia as “food deserts” where access to healthy foods is poor.

Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann pitched a plan at Tuesday night’s city council meeting to create a city-funded food delivery program to bring groceries to targeted neighborhoods.

The $10,000 request to the council would cover delivery fees to residents at $100 per year.

The city would utilize existing delivery services with large chain stores, utilizing existing technology. If successful, it would help springboard an expansion funded by outside grants.

Rickenmann said the program would help alleviate the need in the community as more grocery stores are recruited.

“At least we’re trying something to get groceries in people’s houses,” he said.

The city council appeared receptive, listening to the plan without pushback.

District 2 City Councilwoman Tina Herbert the issue of food deserts requires exploring all options possible.

“To me, it’s almost like a business idea, you don’t know until you try it,” she said.

The non-profit Wholespire advocates for expanded access to healthy food in food deserts and Policy and Advocacy Consultant Phillip Ford welcomed the proposal.

“If you are without a vehicle and you have to take public transportation and walk a mile to the bus stop and then ride the bus to the grocery store, and then grocery shop, have these bags and then travel all the way back. It’s a huge barrier for these folks,” he said.

The city council took no action on the proposal Monday night, but Rickenmann said he is aiming to bring it back before the council in April.

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