Birmingham City Council passes multifaceted healthy food ordinance

In a unanimous vote, the Birmingham City Council passed an ordinance that addresses multiple zoning issues related to the accessibility of healthy food and produce throughout the city.

Here is the item as it appeared on the agenda:

The ordinance establishes overlay boundaries that will prevent new dollar stores from operating within one mile of an existing store. These discount stores offer little to no healthy food options and often prevent grocery stores from operating in a community because they divert customers and revenue. As a state, Alabama ranks in the top five with most dollar stores per capita, which are heavily saturated in low-income and majority-black communities.

Roughly 69 percent of Birmingham’s residents live in USDA-designated food deserts, an issue that affects all nine districts. “Dollar stores pull customers away from grocery stores and other healthy food options,” says Josh Carpenter, director of the Office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity. “That problem is exacerbated in Birmingham after we lost five grocery stores in a ten year period recently…This ordinance allows us to be strategic and thoughtful in how we recruit new grocery stores to the city.”

The ordinance also loosens restrictions on parking and square footage requirements for grocery stores, which is often a prohibitive issue with grocers looking to open a store in the city. In an effort the increase the impact of community and urban gardens, the ordinance also increases the amount of compost that is allowed to be stored on-site while also allowing for the sale of produce to residents.

Councilor John Hilliard, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said he is happy to see Birmingham making strides toward addressing the need for residents to have access to healthy food options. He said the impact of this goes far beyond not having a grocery store nearby.

“People wonder why kids in public schools don’t pay attention,” Hilliard said. “It’s because they’re hungry and we have huge areas in our city where people don’t have anything to eat besides high-fructose, high-sodium junk food. This ordinance is about empowering our neighborhoods by opening the door for more community gardens. People are now going to be able to have a better opportunity to provide for themselves and their neighbors.”

Below are more details about the ordinance:

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Tweets from The Birmingham City Council in Birmingham, Alabama

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Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council

Tweets from The Birmingham City Council in Birmingham, Alabama

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