Legislation pending in Congress would allow state and local governments to use tax-exempt private-activity bonds to finance building or refurbishing grocery stores and other fresh produce businesses in 20 cities with "food deserts."

A food desert is defined, in the farm bill enacted last year, as an area "with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of predominantly lower-income neighborhoods and communities." The farm bill also called for research into incentives for retail food market development, including supermarkets, small grocery stores, and farmers' markets in relation to the food desert phenomenon.

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