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Hamilton is American Heart Association's top legislator

MINNEAPOLIS -- The American Heart Association of Minnesota has chosen District 22B Rep.  Rod Hamilton as the recipient of its 2016 Legislator of the Year Award.

The annual award is presented to a legislator whose work during the legislative session has helped to significantly increase health opportunities for Minnesotans.

“Representative Rod Hamilton played a key role in the past session of the Minnesota Legislature to address food access challenges and promote stronger communities in Minnesota, including rural areas of the state,” said Rachel Callanan, regional vice president of advocacy for the American Heart Association.

Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, was the lead author of legislation in the Minnesota House of Representatives to create the Good Food Access Program. The program, which will be administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, will provide grants, low-cost loans and technical support for food-related enterprises in areas of the state where people don’t have the ability to choose healthy, affordable foods. Those enterprises could include new or enhanced grocery stores, mobile markets, farmers’ markets, fresh food refrigeration and other innovative community-driven solutions.

The program was created in response to studies that have shown that approximately 1.6 million Minnesotans -- nearly 30 percent of the state’s population -- lack access to healthy food because of how far they live from a grocery store that supplies fresh fruits and vegetables. To make matters even more challenging, a recent survey by University of Minnesota Extension found that 62 percent of rural grocery store respondents intend to own their store for 10 more years or less, and the vast majority do not have a transition plan in place to help assure the store will continue to operate.

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