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The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that in Oklahoma City, the City Council is considering legislation that would mandate "new retailers in the area to designate at least 500 square feet of space to fresh food. The measure is expected to pass."

The move is a response to the fact that "in the nine square miles that cover the 73111 ZIP Code in northeast Oklahoma City, there isn’t a single grocery store. The last one closed over the summer. There are, however, four dollar stores in the area, where 32% of the 11,000 residents live below the poverty level—roughly three times the national average."

Similar legislation has been passed in places that include Wyandotte County, a part of Kansas City, Kansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

This is just one of the tactics being used to improve the fresh food offerings available to people living in disadvantaged zip codes. Of which there are many. "The USDA estimates that 39 million people, or 12.8% of Americans, live in food deserts," the story says. "Residents of these neighborhoods often must travel significant distances to reach stores with fresh food. Compounding the problem, many don’t have reliable means of transportation."

The Journal notes that Dollar General, which has 16,000 stores, expects to have 650 of them selling fresh produce within the next few months.
KC's View:
There are, of course, different ways for municipalities to address the food desert problem, which continues to plague a lot of communities. The other day we had a story about Baldwin, Florida, where after the last grocery store closed the government decided to open its own. That's just one approach … but I think that governments are entirely justified in trying to figure out a reasonable public policy approach to the issue.

I'd love to see ways in which some of the strategies and tactics being adopted for e-commerce initiatives could be applied to dealing with this issue.