Food deserts are defined according to a classification system by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Census tracts classifying as food deserts are areas that are low-income and low-access, meaning its residents live far from a grocery store.

Opening up grocery stores in food deserts may soon become less expensive in Connecticut, as provisions that provide tax incentives for such stores were incorporated into the state budget, which is now awaiting Gov. Ned Lamont’s approval.

The food desert bill provisions, formerly part of House Bill 6854, were incorporated into House Bill 6941, the state budget bill. There are two main things the provisions do: provide tax incentives and allow the hiring of a statewide food and nutrition analyst.

For the tax incentives, the bill allows municipalities that contain food deserts to provide relief on real estate taxes for two assessment years to new grocery stores wanting to open up in those areas.

A municipality wouldn’t lose out on the tax revenue that would otherwise be paid by the grocery store. At the discretion of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, the department would be able to provide a financial grant to the municipalities in the amount no more than the property taxes that were relieved to offset the lost revenue.

Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association, which is a trade association that represents food retailers and others, said that enticing grocery stores to go into food deserts was a proactive move by the legislature.

“This bill addresses systemic inequities and promotes a more equitable food system for all Connecticut residents, regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographic location. Grocery stores are the cornerstones of the communities and neighborhoods they serve, and our state's most vulnerable residents deserve access to affordable and nutritious food options just as much as anyone else,” said Pesce.

Read more: How CT is encouraging grocery stores to open in food deserts