SPRINGFIELD – As Illinois residents walk through the aisles of their local grocery store, they may wonder how far their food travels before it reaches their table. This has led State Senator Dave Koehler to advance an initiative to make Illinois food more readily available on store shelves.

“This initiative strengthens our food industry in a way that cultivates a stronger, more sustainable food system that benefits everyone,” said Koehler (D-Peoria). “By bridging the gap from farm to table, we give our family farmers more opportunities to distribute their goods while making fresh produce available to our community.”

Senate Bill 3077 would create the Local Food Infrastructure Grant Act. This measure would require the Illinois Department of Agriculture to amplify local food processing, collection and distribution within the state through grants. Eligible applicants would include farms, co-ops, process facilities, food businesses and hubs with fewer than 50 employees, as well as Illinois nonprofit organizations and local governments.

Koehler’s bill creates a two-tiered grant system for both individual and collaborative projects. Individual projects may receive grants between $1,000 and $75,000, where collaborative projects may be awarded $1,000 up to $250,000. These grants may be used toward production, grading and packaging equipment, as well as refrigerated trucks, milling equipment, local fish processing and milk processing.

According to the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, a 10% shift in the average grocery budget toward local food purchasing could generate billions in economic growth for the state. By incentivizing the expansion and collaboration of local food providers, Senate Bill 3077 will reinforce Illinois’ food industry, grow local economies and provide access to locally sourced food to residents across the state.

“We have some of the richest soil in the country. We should have our farmers’ food on the shelves rather than import products from hundreds of miles away,” said Koehler. “This is a win for all of us. Investing in our farmers is an investment in ourselves.”

Senate Bill 3077 passed the Senate on Friday and now moves to the House for further consideration.