VENICE, Ill. – To bring more grocery stores and fresh produce to food deserts in Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed new legislation Friday morning. 

“We’re moving as fast as we can because we know that there’s a need all across the state,” he said.

SB 850 establishes the Illinois Grocery Initiative. It will support existing grocers and encourage new grocery stores to open through incentives.

The legislation also allows grocery stores receiving grants through the program to be designated as High Impact Businesses, giving them the opportunity to receive tax credits.

Venice, Illinois, is considered a food desert. Dorian Hickerson said there aren’t that many grocery stores, which makes it difficult for the elderly to get groceries.

“If the elderly people can’t get around, a grocery store in the neighborhood would be more convenient for them,” said Hickerson. “They see a lot of young people, [they ask], ‘Can you run to the grocery store for me? Right up the street.’ A lot of people don’t have vehicles, so in the community, a grocery store would be most likely appreciated.”

Through the Illinois Grocery Initiative, $20 million will be invested in areas considered food deserts around the state.

Kevin Jackson said the community needs a store with affordable prices that they can depend on.

“That’s the problem, we don’t have a big grocery store. We have these little stores, they don’t have everything in it,” he said.

“It would be absolutely wonderful for us to be able to have accessible fresh fruits and good foods in our neighborhood,” said Tayla Echols, Secretary to Venice’s Mayor.

Gov. Pritzker said there will be an application online for grocery stores to apply for a grant.