Several Texas Democrats are trying to capitalize on the nation’s focus on obesity with more attempts to grow government. They want to offer government-funded loans to build grocery stores in areas with a purported lack of supermarkets to address a problem that doesn’t actually exist.
State Senators Judith Zaffirni and Rodney Ellis, along with State Representatives Ryan Guillen, Borris Miles and Lon Burnam, have filed bills attempting to create a “grocery store revolving loan fund” intended to address a supposed shortage of nutritious food in certain areas of the state.
These alleged “food deserts,” so the argument goes, are areas that lack nearby grocery stores where people can purchase nutritious and healthy food. As a result, residents are forced to rely on fast food restaurants and convenience stores for food, contributing to the nation’s obesity rates.
The only problem is that that problem doesn’t actually exist.
“[T]wo new studies have found something unexpected. Such neighborhoods not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents…
[S]tudies lending support to the idea tended to be limited by methodological difficulties.
For example, some researchers looked at neighborhood food outlets but did not have data on how fat residents were. Others examined small areas, like part of a single city and extrapolated to the entire nation. Others had a different problem. They looked at much bigger areas like ZIP codes, which include people of diverse incomes, making it hard to know what happened in pockets of poverty within those regions.
Some researchers counted only fast food restaurants and large supermarkets, missing small grocers who sold produce. Some tallied food outlets per 1,000 residents, which made densely populated urban areas appear to have fewer places per person to buy food. A more meaningful measure, Dr. Lee said, is the distance to the nearest stores.”
Of course that isn’t going to keep these Democrats from letting an ostensible crisis go to waste. Their bills would set up a “revolving loan fund program” (funded with your tax dollars) to make it easier to build grocery stores in these areas.
But the only thing standing to become healthier from such a program is the bottom line for grocery stores like HEB, who would certainly be willing to expand into these markets if easier access to capital might make these ventures profitable — crowding out future competition in the process. (Notably, the president of HEB is billionaire Democrat mega-donor, Charles Butt.)
As of now, the market is working. Healthy food is already available to those in “food deserts,” even if large, established grocery store chains aren’t in the area. And with studies showing a lack of a correlation between “food deserts” and obesity, these bills are completely unwarranted.
Grocery Store Revolving Loan Bills
SB 403 by Zaffirini
SB 415 by Ellis
HB 725 by Guillen
HB 3616 by Burnam