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Study Committee Discusses Food Deserts, Solutions

Gleaners CEO John Elliot testifies at food desert study committee.

Photo: Jill Sheridan (IPB News)

Gleaners CEO John Elliot testifies at food desert study committee.

Indiana food deserts were once again the topic of discussion in a legislative study committee Wednesday. It’s the third time lawmakers have discussed the issue in a summer committee – with no results to show for it.

Food deserts are the sole focus for a summer study committee for the first time. Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) has co-authored legislation for the last three years to address to the lack of health food options in Indiana. She says this time around the message seems to be sinking in.

“I think when we go back to session, after we hear everything from today, I think we’ll see multiple bills coming out of this,” Shackleford says.

Supporters from various organizations testified about possible solutions, from community gardens to transportation. Indiana Healthy Weight’s Eric Beers says there are different answers for different areas.

“It could be a business solution, it could be a nonprofit solution, it could be that folks need education so it could be grants to show people how to cook,” Beers says.

He says people on the local level need support.

“To create a program that allows anyone that has a good idea, really unleash innovation,” Beers says.

Past legislation would have created healthy food financing through grants or loans. But a bill that sets up a program infrastructure without specific funding attached has a better chance during the upcoming, non-budget session.

Around 800,000 Hoosiers live in areas with limited access to healthy food.

Gleaners CEO John Elliot says food deserts and food insecurity are tied and lawmakers are more aware than ever.

“Hunger is not in isolation,” Elliot says. “Hunger is typically a symptom of something else and I think they are seeing that now.”

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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