ROCKFORD -- When the Springfield Road extension was built, it was heralded as a new gateway to west side development. A wide avenue which would parallel the US 20 bypass, bringing business expansion to the area, but years after it was constructed, that development has yet to come. "That's never quite gone as we had planned, so we need to refocus," says Winnebago County Chairman Scott Christiansen.
In fact, Springfield Road sits in the heart of what the Winnebago County Health department identifies as Rockford's food desert. A vast area where residents don't have access to grocery stores serving fresh food. Christensen lives on its edge. "I'm a southwest Rockford resident now .. I drive Montague every day." he says, and he's committed to bringing change. "It's very apparent obviously when you're driving that every day, the lack of services in general. It's no wonder people are saying 'Hey, what about us?'"
Christiansen has met with executives at Schnuck's supermarkets. "We met with them some time ago," he says. "One of the brothers, Todd Schnuck, was interested in giving back a bit to the community, and I said, 'Well, we've got something here we need to talk to you about." He then followed up with this letter seeking their help.
Christiansen is also willing to offer government incentives and other public/private partnerships to anyone who will help develop areas like this large tract of land on Springfield and West State. "Certainly a food store drug store combination is something we're working on aggressively," he says., "... as well as a bank, a lending institution. There's enormous potential there."
Potential to create an oasis of commerce in Rockford's food desert. Christiansen also mentioned the YMCA is looking to build in the area. There's also been talk of locating a school, but the first piece really needs to be a food store, and at the moment, that piece remains elusive.
If you would like to join us as we work to end Rockford's food desert, go to our website and sign our food desert petition.
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