Limited access to food, especially in smaller municipalities in Slovakia, is a serious and constantly growing problem with far-reaching negative impacts. The retail network COOP Jednota Slovensko draws attention to this. Smaller municipalities in Slovakia have been struggling for a long time with the lack of access to basic food. The so-called food deserts cannot be stopped, on the contrary, they are expanding. According to traders, this is already a serious problem, so they call on the Ministry of Agriculture to address this issue. At the same time, they point to effective solutions abroad that we could be inspired by.
Business networks that sell food even in rural areas cannot maintain the profitability of their operations in the long term without the support of the state. “At the same time, there is a great demand for high-quality Slovak food on the Slovak market, including the countryside. This was also shown by a recent survey, which showed that up to 76 percent of consumers prefer foods of Slovak origin. That is why it is necessary to look for conceptual solutions to ensure that there are enough quality Slovak products available even in smaller villages,” said the Chairman of the Board of Directors of COOP Jednota Slovensko Ján Bilinský.
State subsidies could help
Currently, in villages without commercial establishments, the inhabitants provide themselves with basic foodstuffs, either by themselves, or in other places, the so-called mobile stores. However, according to COOP Jednota, even ambulatory forms of sales are not a systemic solution to the problem, because they carry health risks related to deficiencies in food handling. “Several countries are struggling with the problem of food deserts, Slovakia could be inspired by them,” says the company. While trade in Slovakia has long been excluded from the possibility of receiving any subsidies, in Poland and the Czech Republic the problem of “food deserts” is effectively solved through a system of state financial subsidies. “The introduction of investment incentives would also significantly help the business, with the aim of supporting the modernization of business operations in the countryside, which would increase their profitability,” adds the company COOP Jednota.
Pre-election promises of the Hlas-SD party
On the problem of the so-called of food deserts in Slovakia before the September parliamentary elections was pointed out by the Party Hlas – social democracy. She drew attention to the fact that trade unions already perceive it as a problem. “We have been pointing out the problem of food deserts, regions where there is no food store, for a long time. At the same time, we showed the risks of an increase in food deserts, in which approximately 350,000 people live, and we proposed concrete solutions,” says the expert of the Voice for Self-Government party, Michal Kaliňák.
Party representatives were inspired by the solutions, for example, in Poland and the Czech Republic, where these measures helped people. Party expert Michal Kaliňák also agrees with the statement of both the Trade Union and the Slovak Alliance of Modern Trade. “Already, these two organizations state the problem with the unavailability of food in the countryside, with the fact that food deserts are expanding and that the state must help and be inspired by the solutions of its neighbors,” he said.
Before the elections, the Hlas-SD party promised to implement solutions that would help people in food deserts, where no one can buy even basic food. “Food belongs to every village. In food deserts, it’s not a business, but a public service. Therefore, we will introduce state support for retail stores, including mobile ones, which can serve people in small villages on a daily basis, while supporting regional production and ensuring that this service is sustainable,” said party expert Michal Kaliňák.
Food deserts in Slovakia can be solved locally mainly thanks to local governments