Atlanta planning to put $1 million into fight against food insecurity

Then-Mayoral candidate Andre Dickens loads bags of food into a car during a Thanksgiving  food giveaway in southwest Atlanta. Saturday, November 20, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Then-Mayoral candidate Andre Dickens loads bags of food into a car during a Thanksgiving food giveaway in southwest Atlanta. Saturday, November 20, 2021. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta’s lawmakers are considering legislation to invest $1 million into efforts to reduce food insecurity.

Atlanta City Councilmembers Marci Collier Overstreet and Andrea Boone introduced an ordinance at Monday’s council meeting that would allocate $1 million to Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm. Invest Atlanta would put that money into an Economic Opportunity Fund to attract grocers to underserved communities, according to the mayor’s office.

Food insecurity is a federal term for households without enough consistent food access for everyone in the home to have an active, healthy lifestyle. A lack of transportation combined with long distances between residences and grocery stores also contributes to this issue, among other factors.

The mayor’s office says Atlanta has fewer than 50 grocery stores with 50 employees at most where the quality of the grocers is markedly different in the northeastern parts of the city compared to other areas in town.

Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found in 2020 that Black non-Hispanic households were more than two times as likely to experience food insecurity than the national average ― 21.7% versus 10.5%.

Predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods may also have fewer full-service supermarkets than predominantly white and non-Hispanic neighborhoods, and convenience stores may have higher food prices, lower-quality foods, and a smaller variety of foods, the study found.

“My constituents don’t have enough options, leaving them to buy food from the neighborhood gas stations and fast-food restaurants,” Boone said in a statement. “A lack of grocery stores makes people eat unhealthy food too often and creates economic disparities.”

Employees and volunteers at Open Hand Atlanta prep meals on Thursday, July 14, 2022. Each day, Open Hand Atlanta prepares and packages five thousand healthy meals for people in need. (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

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Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Overstreet said on Friday that the ordinance will provide new jobs and healthy, affordable food in the city, which includes the Campbellton Road corridor in her district. It will also require Invest Atlanta to provide for a written report to the council after it spends the $1 million.

“Every family in Atlanta deserves access to fresh, healthy food and convenient locations that provide these items,” Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement. “These funds are an investment in communities impacted by historic underinvestment from national chains. The city is committed to righting those wrongs, with an end goal of eliminating food insecurity in every zip code.”