Research finds an estimated 200,000 Indy residents live in food deserts

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Using recent and local data, a group is trying to improve food access in Marion County. What they found is alarming. They say, an estimated 200,000 Indy residents live in food deserts.

The Indy Food Council hosted its first System Shift Speaker Series event on Thursday. They discussed a new metric for measuring food access in Indianapolis and it shows a lot of work needs to be done to improve.

Robert Hearst opened his grocery store two weeks ago.

"My wife and I one day were just riding around, and we noticed there were no grocery stores,” said Hearst. “The nearest grocery store was like a mile, mile and a half away."

A&I Variety Meats and Produce is located on the city’s far east side, a neighborhood that’s included in the 33% of people who are more than one mile away from a large grocery store.

"I just took the initiative to do my own research and diligence and found out this area of Indianapolis was pretty big when it comes to food deserts,” added Hearst.

Hearst isn’t alone in the food desert fight. Unai Miguel Andres works with The Polis Center. He presented his findings to a group of nonprofits working for change. He found twice as many food deserts in the Indy area than the USDA. He says the USDA’s last report is dated.

“Grocery store data from 2015, which as everybody knows here there’s a lot of grocery stores that have closed since then,” said Andres said.

Andres found low income areas that don’t have access to healthy food.

Picture provided by Unai Miguel Andres

Everything mapped in purple is considered a food desert in Marion County.

“We identify where real grocery stores are within the county, then we looked at how far people lived from them by using real roads, instead of linear distances,” said Andres.

Andres says recognizing the need will help give families living in poverty a chance.

“I just love food and I think everybody should have access to healthy food. Identifying why and where people don’t have that access,” said Andres.

Hearst says he’s determined to make a difference by providing healthy options.

"They don't have to walk as far, I’m right here,” said Hearst.

According to the report, one of the largest food deserts is downtown in the neighborhoods like Riverside and Crown Hill.

For an interactive map to show if you could be living in a food desert, click here. You can also view the entire report findings.

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