Lawmakers Discuss Ways To End Food Deserts For 1.5 Million North Carolinians

Members of a North Carolina legislative committee agree pockets of the state with limited access to grocery stores are a problem. But leaders of the panel say there are limits to what they can do to eliminate the areas called food deserts.

A House study panel voted Monday on several recommendations after studying the issue. But committee co-chairman Rep. Edgar Starnes says elected officials can't force a grocery store to build in food deserts.

A food desert is defined as areas where residents live more than a mile away from a grocery store. In rural areas, the distance is 10 miles.

The committee's final report cited federal numbers showing 1.5 million people in food deserts in North Carolina. Those residents are more likely to suffer from certain health problems.