FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas lawmakers have filed a bill that would provide access to healthier food options for more Arkansans.

House Bill 1645 would provide financial incentives to retailers that increase this access to affordable healthy foods for underserved communities.

Dr. Dinesh Edem, a weight loss physician at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, says Arkansas is consistently in the top five worst states for obesity.

“Around 39% of Arkansas adults — they’re in the obesity category, and the number is just increasing every year,” Edem said.

Edem says obesity is caused by a number of things, but one factor can be that person’s socioeconomic status.

“The weight is going up, especially in the industrialized countries and especially where the balance of money has shifted, where the patients who cannot afford that much are having access to these high-energy foods,” Edem said.

Democrat State Rep. Tippi McCullough filed House Bill 1645 to present a healthier food choice closer to a person’s home.

“We have areas that don’t have access to these types of foods, and so it’s not specific to anywhere. But what we really want to try to do is to work all over the state to try to solve this problem,” McCullough said.

McCullough says there will be a lot of options presented to private sectors to make this a new reality for people to afford healthier foods.

“Whether that’s loans or there’s a multitude of ways that we can try to help people be able to make this become a reality financially, it’s not necessarily a big chunk of money given from the state. There are lots of options for ways to create that money, and by using public and maybe private and all kinds of community resources,” McCullough said.

McCullough says the bill is an effort to give Arkansans a choice to eat healthier locally.

“It could be a big grocery store, or it could be even a small convenience store with a certain section that’s trying to make sure that there’s some fresh, affordable food. It could be farmer’s market-related. That’s why we try not to limit it to any one or two things. Tried to make it where communities could be as creative as they needed to be,” McCullough said.

McCullough says House Bill 1645 will be presented to the Senate Committee of Agriculture and Economic Development within the next two weeks.