Greater than 1 / 4 of the black hoosiers stranded in meals deserts
As a first grader growing up on Indianapolis’ College Avenue in Meridian-Kessler, a trip to the local Double 8 Foods was a good day. The stacks of produce, the narrow lines of tin-colored cans, and the aisles of abundant dairy products signaled a home-cooked meal.
My family including my parents, sister, and grandparents next door couldn’t go to the cramped shop, but it was on a bus route. And the line of cars nearby was a tell-tale sign that the store on 46th and College was the nearest grocery store for miles.
Almost three decades later, the Double 8 is gone, and new data shows that urban decay – what experts call divestment – has also left shells of former shops booking the block of my children’s home. My family still lives there, in one of the city’s many food deserts.
Without access to fresh food, people can have serious health problems. And a new study by SAVI at IUPUI’s Polis Center shows that more than a quarter of Black Hoosiers live in food deserts – low-income areas with no easy access to a supermarket.
“We wanted to answer the question, what are the chances that if you move to this area you will live far from a grocery store,” says Unai Miguel Andres, a mapping and data analyst who conducted the research.
The study, which was produced for Side Effects Public Media and the Indianapolis Recorder, highlights problem areas across the state. These include large swaths in Gary on the shores of Lake Michigan, as well as portions of Posey, Greene, and Crawford counties further south.
The data also shows that residents of urban Indiana are more likely to live in a food wasteland. More than 16 percent of city dwellers cannot easily reach a supermarket.
“If you are already on a very tight budget, it means you will either have to spend money on a bus or gasoline for your car, if you have one at all,” says Andres. “Still it is [a trip of] two hours that you can’t waste. If you had a store within a 10 minute walk, you would likely receive more than one item at a time and leave more often. “
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food deserts are low-income areas where at least a third of residents live more than a mile from a supermarket – or 10 miles in rural communities.
In Indianapolis, 208,000 people live in food deserts. And 10,500 households without a car are in a “transit food desert” where there is no grocery store that is easily accessible by bus.
Inadequate access to healthy food can have far-reaching health effects, according to experts. Food deserts can contribute to poor nutrition, leading to obesity and related diseases like diabetes.
“If you can only go to the grocery store once every two weeks because it’s too far, you’re going to buy things that won’t go away,” Andres says. “So it affects your choices. I also think that it puts a strain on people who are already stressed. “
And that can hit mostly black communities particularly hard.
“With poverty, [stores] You may not always find yourself in the heart of the place where people of color live, ”says Dr. Virginia Caine, Marion County Health Department director.
It is a plague for fresh produce that Rep. André Carson wants to reverse in the communities he represents, including Meridian-Kessler. About 20 percent of the 7th district’s residents live in a food wasteland, and he says grocery stores are closing and they have to rely on fast food or convenience stores.
It’s also a problem across the country. More than 29 million Americans – nearly 10 percent of the population – live without direct access to affordable food, he says.
Carson, a Democrat, plans to reinstate the Food Deserts Act to help shrink food deserts. The legislation would provide federal funds for loans to grocery stores in these areas. The aim is to ensure that loan recipients, including nonprofits, nonprofits, and community organizations, provide affordable, healthy food.
“This should certainly be a human right,” says Carson. “We all need food. It’s a right, it shouldn’t be a luxury. “
Meanwhile, innovations enforced by the pandemic’s quarantine requirements are providing relief. More than half a million Hoosiers receiving the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can use their Hoosier Works EBT cards to purchase groceries online for collection or delivery at Amazon, Aldi and Walmart.
“I think a really successful elimination of food deserts would go a long way towards solving hunger problems in our country,” says Carson. “Unfortunately, people do not feel problems or become compassionate for them until it affects their own lives or the lives of loved ones.”
This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative dealing with public health.