SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Recent grocery store closures in Sioux Falls have created food deserts – areas where it’s challenging to find healthy food, especially for low-income families.

That’s why Mayor Paul TenHaken and the Sioux Falls Health Department, are launching a new program to combat that issue.

Studies show more than eight percent of the population in Sioux Falls has limited access to adequate food. Affordability of food is a big factor in that, but so is access to a grocery store.

There are eight sections of Sioux Falls classified as ‘Food Access Priority Areas’ or food deserts.

“You can only choose from what is available to you,” Dr. Charles Chima, Sioux Falls Public Health Director, said. “Right, so if you live in a neighborhood where your options are perhaps gas stations or little convenient stores by the corner of the street, well those are those choices you have. And oftentimes, especially when people are low-income or they may not have the means of transportation, then that really becomes a real barrier.”

A barrier to accessing healthy food. That’s why the City of Sioux Falls is launching the Eat Well Grant Program.

“We have a fund with four hundred thousand dollars in it,” TenHaken said. “Let’s say for sake of discussion someone in tract 10.01 wants to put a small grocery store there but they need a hundred thousand dollars to make the land assemblage work or to renovate a building or to do something to make the small grocery store concept work in that market, they can apply for these funds.”

“It’s not just about going out and giving some free produce, it’s about solving that market barrier so that people in these communities can continue to have access to these resources, even five years from now,” Chima said.

Improving food accessibility and quality of life.

“Our community has a long way to go when it comes to improving our dietary behaviors,” Chima said. “And again, this is an important risk factor for cancer, for heart disease, for diabetes and obesity.”

The City Council will have the second reading of this grant tonight. Once it’s approved, people can start applying for the money.