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As 2017 drew to a close, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a historic measure to expand access to fresh fruits and vegetables for families throughout Michigan.

For many of us, picking up a bunch of bananas or a bundle of carrots at the grocery store on the way home from work is an afterthought. But for 1.8 million people in Michigan, that’s not the case. Nearly 20 percent of Michigan’ residents, including 300,000 children, don’t have access to fruits and vegetables because they live too far from a grocery store, and smaller stores nearby don’t carry them.

The bill, championed by then-state Rep. Andy Schor, who is now mayor of Lansing, is a big step towards helping families eat healthier by encouraging small grocery stores in underserved areas of the state to expand or new ones to open.

This new law will encourage communities to invest in improving health. It will also create jobs and spark local economic development. Most importantly, it will expand Michiganders’ access to the vital nutrients found in fresh foods.

Vegetables are generally low in fat and calories, while packing key nutrients like potassium, dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C. Countless studies have shown coupling healthy fruits and vegetables with an overall healthy diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

According to data published in The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, one-third of the adults in Michigan are obese, up from 22 percent in 2000 and 13 percent in 1990. More than 30 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 are overweight or obese.

When healthy food is readily available, children and adults develop better eating habits and better overall health, including a decreased risk of obesity. Every child deserves access to fresh fruits and vegetables so they can grow up healthy and strong.

On behalf of the American Heart Association and nearly 2 million people across Michigan who lack access to healthy food, I want to thank Andy Schor, Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Legislature for putting the health and well-being of Michigan families and children first by passing Public Act 239 of 2017.

Opening up much-needed funding to allow grocery stores in underserved areas of the state to expand is a good first step towards a healthier Michigan. After all, you can’t lead a healthy life without access to healthy foods.

David Hodgkins

government relations director,

American Heart Association

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