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Little Rock task force meets to discuss food desert challenges

Some members of the Little Rock task force shared how leaders have been planning to use creative ideas to bring grocery stores closer to people in food deserts.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In June, Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. announced the City of Little Rock would form a task force to address the food desert issue.

This week, we got a better look at how leaders have been planning to use creative ideas to bring a grocery store closer to some.

On Wednesday, 10 members of the task force met so that they could put the city's issue on the table.

One area that is considered to be a food desert is Southwest Little Rock.  

"To get access to healthy [and] fresh produce [and] to have to go to another area, not in my neighborhood is not always a great thing," said Kimberly Lee, a resident of SW Little Rock. 

She explained that she was quite familiar with the challenges that her community has faced— so she decided to join the task force.

The task force is led by the City Director of Ward three, Kathy Webb.

"Our overall goal is to make recommendations so we can have equitable access to food," Webb explained.

City board members and the mayor approved $1 million from the American Rescue Plan to address the problem.

Among the several ideas introduced, one of them is delivery options.

"The old idea that everybody goes to a brick and mortar grocery store is changing," Webb described.

The group wants to develop an online ordering system, where in theory, groceries would be delivered to a central location in a food desert neighborhood and people could pick them up.

Alternatively, if transportation were to become an issue, someone would be able to deliver the items.

Webb has been relying on the community to support the idea.

"If you get a really great truck that has several hundred items on and the community doesn't support it, then we haven't accomplished anything," Webb said.

In their next meeting scheduled for March 1, Webb said they plan to use data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pinpoint specifically which areas in Little Rock are food deserts.

Lee expects that this effort will make a difference.

"There are other models and solutions that we will discuss and hopefully the best one would work for the city," Lee said.

Aside from a list of areas they'll be targeting, Webb also said he plans to have information on existing grocery stores and farmer's markets.

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