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Healthcare

Sioux Falls seeks market solutions for urban food deserts

Sioux Falls Public Health
Sioux Falls
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This interview is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

Charles Chima
Sioux Falls
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The Sioux Falls city council has approved $400,000 in grant money designed to increase access to healthy foods in certain parts of Sioux Falls. "Eat Well Sioux Falls" will target eight tracts that Mayor Paul TenHaken calls "food access priority areas."

The following transcript was autogenerated and edited for clarity:

Lori Walsh:

In a rapidly growing city, like Sioux Falls, what are some of the challenges for people getting access to healthy food?

Dr. Chima:

Yeah, that's a good question. When it comes to making healthy choices, we think about a individual making a decision — what to eat and whether to get exercise, what to drink, and all that. But oftentimes we fail to recognize that environment has a role to play in those choices.

If someone is living an area where they have to drive quite some distance, at times two miles or more to get to, say a grocery store, a food service supermarket, then that becomes a consideration of whether they're able to, on a regular basis, consume fresh produce or healthy dairy and meat, things like that. That's part of why we've been paying attention to the maps. Some people have to go more than a mile to get to the nearest grocery store; its growing with some of the recent store closures within the last couple of years. So that's why the city is responding to try to get the private sector to help address this challenge — to see that everyone has equitable access to healthy food.

Lori Walsh:

Tell me how the program will work.

Dr. Chima:

I want to keep it as simple as possible. What it really aims to do is to whether you have the resources to put up a grocery store or an innovative idea. If it's not a store, there other innovative ways that can create a market solution where people can have sustainable access to healthy food, including fresh produce. Right now the application is open on the city's website, siouxfalls.org/eatwell. We want it to be just a simple mechanism where we award these grant funds once we identify a great idea or great proposal. It could be one; it could be many.

Dr. Chima:

And then we look at the proposed projects and make a decision. Does this help address how they could access food in this community in a sustainable way? And if you meet the conditions, we want there to be a one-time grant fund (disbursement) to subsidize the cost of having to provide a service, or to put up a new store in those locations.

Lori Walsh:

Can you give me an example of what you think an innovative idea might be? What might come out of this?

Dr. Chima:

We are really, really open-minded about that. Obviously, what is easy for everyone to understand that is sustainable is to say, "Hey, maybe I already have ..." Even if it's part of one of the major grocery chains, do they want to consider putting up a new location — even if it's a smaller facility — in one of the target areas to make it easier for people in this area, rather than having to come towards the center of the city to get their groceries. But if it's not a store, are there other innovative ideas? I've had so many things people have suggested, think about e-commerce, right? How these days there are pickup lockers where you could order something online and then it gets delivered to, say, very close to your location, and then you can walk in and pick it up.

Dr. Chima:

There things like that, that are creative. But again, ultimately we are not looking at this as some charitable donation where you go out and you give people free produce, and then tomorrow they don't have access to the same service. So if there is something where, whether it involves delivery, whether involves maybe a farmer's market. We really think that we want to leave that open-ended at this point. Maybe it's not a grocery store; maybe it's a pharmacy. Maybe it's a store that doesn't have fresh produce today, but they could look at adding a fresh grocery aisle, a fresh produce aisle where people are able to buy fresh meats, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Lori Walsh:

Dr. Charles Chima is the city public health director for the city of Sioux Falls. We've been talking about the Eat Well Sioux Falls program. Dr. Chima, thank you so much for your time. It's been really nice to get to know you.

Dr. Chima:

Thank you. Appreciate it.