Local homeowners organize to make fresh, healthy food accessible

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Three community groups are determined to give their members on the east side of Indianapolis access to healthy, fresh food options that they now have limited access to.

They have partnered with Butler University’s Urban Ecology Department to get some real data that they believe will help them more efficiently minimize the problem that has had real health impacts.

The three groups, Forest Manor Multi-Service Center, Community Alliance of the Far Eastside and United Northeast Community Development Corporation, have formed the Indy East Food Desert Coalition.

“It doesn’t make sense to build more homes, bring more people into the area, and there’s no food,” said Alma Trawick, president of the Keystone-Millersville Neighborhood Association.

Trawick said plenty of homeowners living in her area rely on fast-food restaurants, gas stations and drug stores for their next meal because there are few food options close by.

“They’re forced to because of availability,” said Pam Kurtz, an east side homeowner. “If there is not transportation available, it is a horrific thing getting to the grocery store.”

The federal government has recognized the dire situation. These east side neighborhoods have been classified as ‘food deserts,’ the name given to predominately low-income areas where families have limited access to grocery store chains.

“The need for food, healthy food, and access to food is huge,” said Melissa Fisher, an Indy East Food Desert Coalition organizer.

Butler University will compile all the data from a questionnaire being distributed online and door to door. The hope is that some real, hard numbers will get the attention of government officials and foundations that can offer them a financial boost. They want to see out preliminary plans that include the creation of food co-ops, more robust community gardens, and possibly two farmers’ markets.

Education is also considered an important part of the effort. The community groups plan to sponsor classes on healthy eating, shopping and cooking.

“We just feel like trailblazers over here because this hasn’t happened in our community, and knowing the big grocery store isn’t coming, it’s important that we have to take some ownership of our destiny and decide what we want in our community,” said Regina Marsh, community leader with Forest Manor Multi-Service Center.

The questionnaires will be collected through mid-May and the data should be available in the summer.

For more information, visit the Indy East Food Desert Coalition Facebook page.

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