Locals hope new bill will bring grocery stores to rural areas

A set of proposed bills hopes to end food deserts in Virginia. (KOKH).

BOONES MILL, Va. (WSET) -- More than a quarter of all Virginians say it's not easy finding fresh fruits and veggies near their homes.

That's especially true in our rural areas.

Living in Boones Mill, Jason England plans his week out to a T. England explained, "If we go into Roanoke, we try and maximize the trip. We'll either pick up what we need to, handle what we can when we're there." He added, "We try to make it all where it's one trip in, one trip out and be done with it."

That includes grocery shopping, because even if they forget one thing, going back to get it isn't going to happen. England confessed, "If we have the situation where I don't have the groceries I want to prepare the meal, we might go and grab some fast food."

That's because in Boones Mill, the nearest grocery store is about 15 minutes away.

That distance is an inconvenience for England, but for the eldery or low-income, it's a huge problem. "They're hitching a ride with a friend, you're really struggling and putting off other expenses to get that used car or make that repair to make it work. There's not a good public transit system," explained Boones Mill Town Manager Matt Lawless.

If people can't get to a grocery store, that means their options are limited to higher-priced corner stores that don't have healthy choices.

25 thousand people pass through Boones Mill on Route 220 every day. That's why Lawless says a spot currently for sale right on the road is perfect spot for a grocery store. Of that spot, Lawless said, "There's strong demand on the table for a grocery store to do here. The visibility, the traffic is there."

A set of proposed bills, one by Republican Senator Bill Stanley and Democrat Delegate Dolores McQuinn could help get better terms to make grocers want to come to town.

It would help the town's economy, but even more, it would help people living in the area. Lawless said, "Half of Franklin County School students are on free and reduced lunch and 11 percent of the Franklin County population is food insecure. Having that healthy meal at an affordable price, close-by goes a long way."

To get the program going, the state would need to designate 5 million dollars, which is one of the things they'll be talking about then the legislative session starts next month.

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