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Rockford's Longest Serving Alderman Talks About West Side Development and Ending Food Desert

<p>Victory Bell sees rehabilitation of southwest Rockford as critical to city's economic recovery.</p>

ROCKFORD -- Victory Bell made history in Rockford. Now, he's working to remake a portion of the city which has fallen into blight, including becoming a vast 'food desert,' an area with no grocery stores selling fresh food and vegetables.

When Bell left Rockford City Council back in 2009 -- he departed as the city's first ever black alderman -- and longest serving one. Over his 38 years representing the 5th Ward, he Bell watched as the west side sunk into an economic abyss while other city leaders focused on east side growth. "And so the major part of that was the decision makers with a lack of vision to ensure that this city was an entire city rather than an east side, north side city," Bell says. "So that's how it really happened."

Bell now has a new role as a Board Member for SWIFTT -- 'Southwest Ideas for Today and Tomorrow.' It's an organization committed to bringing change to the area that makes up the heart of Rockford's food desert.

"Freeport is positioned better with supermarkets than Rockford," Bell says, adding, "That's inexcusable!"

Bell points out that Rockford's decline began with the west side's decline. He believes the city will continue to struggle if west Rockford continues to be neglected. "The solution is going to come when the city and all decision makers as well as the county and the residents understand that Rockford has a bad history right now, and if that history is not changed, there is no way that Rockford can survive."

He believes that will only happen if west side residents are willing demand change. Bell say, "I think that the citizens are going to have to be more demanding. They're going to have to put more demands on where they're going to invest their money. They're going to have to put more demands on who they elect as their leaders." A process he believes could include demanding a solution to Rockford's food desert.

For more on Bell's organization SWIFTT, visit their website at http://swiftt.org

To sign our petition seeking an end to Rockford's food desert, click on the link below. Your personal information will not be shared, and your email address used to update you on Rockford's food desert issue:

http://mystateline.com/food-desert

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