Indiana

Bill aims to rid Indiana of food deserts

DAVID WILLIAMS | Indiana Statehouse reporter - INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) The United States Department of Agriculture says a food desert is a place where at least 500 people live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. That number bumps up to 10 miles for rural areas.

After learning that, do you live in a food desert?

You could be living in a food desert and not realize it. There are dozens across Indiana, according to the USDA.

St. Vincent de Paul's Boulevard food pantry is probably the closest place Stephanie Stewart can easily get fresh food, like fruits and vegetables for her family. Stewart lives within a food desert.

"They need an Aldi, or Save-A-Lot or some type of store that people can get to," said Stewart. "Otherwise, the only nearest thing is the pantries."

Stewart and others said the closest grocery store or supermarket was more than 2 miles away.

"It's bad," Stewart explained. "People trying to get to the store can't get to nearby stores. The nearest ones that we had was the 7-11's and they're gone."

We found more than 100 food deserts in Indiana, on the United States Department of Agriculture's food access research atlas.

It includes Boulevard Pantry's service area.

Ed Turissini, a volunteer at the Boulevard Place Food Bank, said that's an issue.

"Fresh fruit and vegetables are really critical to a lot of the people who come through here," said Turissini.

Republican State Senator John Ruckelshaus said there is a supply of fresh food to be had in our state. He said it's the distribution that's the issue.

That's why he introduced his food access bill, to help shrink food deserts.

"There will be a demand that the Lt. Governor host an annual summit of all the non-profits, like Gleaner's Food Bank," said Rickelshaus. "Like St. Vincent DePaul who are doing a great job of distributing the food to come together and share best-practices on how they can help their areas."

The idea had people inside the food pantry talking Monday morning.

"Oh! I think it's great. You wind up in some of these areas, you wonder how people survive," Turissini explained. "Especially older people. People without cars, people on limited incomes."

Ruckelshaus said he feels like there will be widespread support for the bill, because he said the bill does not ask for money from the state or the creation of a fund for this.

@DWilliamsTV

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