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Many Connecticut residents face food accessibility issues, depending on where they live and their income level. In particular, some residents live in food deserts, and nearly 3,800 food stamp recipients don’t live in a town that accepts them.
But this year, the Connecticut General Assembly took steps designed to improve residents’ access to food.
Here’s what to know.
What is a food desert?
Food deserts are areas that are low-income and low-access, meaning their residents live far from a grocery store.
More specifically, food deserts are census tract areas in which at least 100 households are located more than one-half mile from the nearest supermarket and have no vehicle access; or at least 500 people, or 33% of the population, live more than 20 miles from the nearest supermarket, regardless of vehicle availability, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
How common are food deserts in Connecticut, and where are they located?
An analysis of federal data by CTInsider found that 8% of the state’s census tracts — which are geographic regions defined for taking a census — could be considered a food desert.
Here is a map of the areas of Connecticut that are considered food deserts:
What are food stamps?
Food stamps, handled by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, have long provided financial assistance to low-income families and individuals. Depending on income and family size, residents get a fixed monthly amount to buy nutritious food in approved stores.
Can food stamps be used everywhere in CT?
In 24 CT towns, no stores accept food stamps. This means that out of more than half a million food stamp recipients in the state, nearly 3,800 live in towns where there are no retailers that accept this form of payment.
Most of the towns that don’t have food stamp retailers are in rural parts of the state, adding to the long list of challenges for people who live in these communities.
Nearby SNAP retailers can be found using this locator.
How is Connecticut working to improve food accessibility?
Provisions that provide tax incentives for opening grocery stores in food deserts and allow for the hiring of a statewide food and nutrition analyst were incorporated into the state budget.
How would these tax incentives encourage grocery store growth?
The tax incentive provision 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.
What would the food and nutrition policy analyst do?
The analyst would be hired by the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity and Opportunity and would create publicly available food resource databases, annual reports and community-focused work groups, and would spread awareness about food access.