This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) that would have provided $5 million for the development of grocery stores in areas where such stores and fresh food are scarce. (Such areas are known as “food deserts.) This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Agriculture Department programs.
Jackson Lee urged support for her amendment: “This is a simple amendment about food and about helping more Americans get healthy food. There is not one of us that does not understand how dry and difficult a desert is. This amendment is simply about food deserts in rural and urban areas….Fast-food restaurants and convenience stores line the blocks of low-income neighborhoods, offering few if any healthy options. In rural areas, there may be no access at all. This particularly impacts African American and Hispanic communities and, as I indicated, rural communities. This climate in the difficult times that we have requires us to be able to allow families to have access to good food. We also have the issues of obesity and as well nutrition. Food deserts impact many districts, and I will say to you that Texas in particular has fewer grocery stores per capita than any other State.”
There was very little debate on this amendment, but Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) argued that the Government Accountability Office (GAO—which conducts studies and investigations on behalf of Congress) had called into question the effectiveness of opening grocery stores in “food deserts” as a means of improving nutrition. He said: “GAO reported that a variety of approaches, including improving access to targeted foods, have the potential to increase the consumption of targeted food that could contribute to a healthy diet, but little is known about the effectiveness of these approaches.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 167-252. Voting “yea”
were 162 Democrats and 5 Republicans. 230 Republicans and 22 Democrats
voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would
have provided $5 million for the development of grocery stores in areas where such stores and fresh food are scarce.