Tax incentives for grocers should be encouraged

Youngstown is no peach, and there are no peaches in Youngstown.

As the city grapples with crime, poverty and unemployment, there are attainable goals — like incentivizing businesses that could support locally grown and owned produce suppliers — that continue to elude local leaders.

The Youngstown food desert is an evergreen issue that stifles the quality of life in the city.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

YSU’s food services wants the produce. Youngstown schools can use it. Local vendors want to sell it. Residents and students living in the dorms want to buy it.

But no one has a coalescent plan to grow the area’s fresh food supply. They just have scattershot community gardens and food markets that stamp out blight brushfires.

Yes, there were 16 farmers markets in 2008, and one currently operating downtown, but is it really enough?

So, we call on the city to act.

While the city of Youngstown provides tax incentives for businesses that promise perennial jobs, nothing is done to garner support for perennial foods.

Jim Converse, director of the farmers market, is ready and hopeful to begin selling fresh produce to local grocery stores to expand, but that’s just a mere start. There must be grocery stores to sell to.

It was reported in The Vindicator that 18 percent of Youngstown’s nearly 70,000 residents live more than a half-mile from a grocery store.

A program should be established to partner local produces with local consumers.

Gas stations should be encouraged to provide these products. And beyond gas stations, which can only mitigate hunger, we need long-term solutions that will stabilize communities.

Coax the fruit and vegetable vendors in the outskirt townships of Liberty and Girard into our city, and revitalize the old Pyatt Street Market, and see how the South Side responds.  

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