Efforts Underway to Overcome Lack of Access to Healthy Food

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By: Jill Sheridan, Indiana Public Broadcasting

November 22, 2016

INDIANA – Seven percent of Hoosiers struggle to buy healthy food. Obstacles include a lack of money, low access and limited produce.  Efforts are underway in Hamilton County to overcome this issue.

Urban conservationist Claire Lane recognized a problem in her community.  She says some pantries are at the mercy of what gets donated, so it’s a lot of pasta and carbs and a lot of salt… a lot of kids or adults they might be obese and well- feed but they are eating the wrong things.

Lane works for the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District and she recently received a fifty-thousand-dollar federal grant to get more fresh produce to people.

Her strategy?  – Focus on urban gardens. Find successful programs, see how they are able to make connections, break down the barriers to fresh food access and help others learn to grow.

One of the more successful programs in Hamilton County is at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Carmel.

Vegetables are still growing on the vines in the community garden.

Parishioners like Wayne Gartner volunteer to grow the veggies that local food pantries need the most- things people are familiar with and can easily incorporate them into their meals – It’s been a productive year.

But conservationist Claire Lane says there’s more to solving this problem than planting seeds.

hey’re strapped for volunteers, the people they have are working really hard and devoting a lot of time and they don’t have the time to make these connections.

She says if the pantry’s pick up day is Wednesday and the garden is delivering on Thursday that food doesn’t keep till next week.

Lane hopes to be able to bridge these gaps and her solutions are representative of a trend in fighting Indiana’s food deserts.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry Executive Director, Emily Weikert Bryant says healthy food access is a concern for many of the clients they serve.

In recent years, food networks and federal food programs have expanded farm to pantry programs and other ways to get fresh produce onto people’s plates because there is such a need.

At Merciful Help Center food pantry in Hamilton county – more than 100,000 people are served every year.  St. Christopher’s is already providing the pantry with fresh produce and they’re not the only one says Director Jane Slaton.

The Merciful pantry has a volunteer dietician who has created a point scale to determine healthfulness and distributes recipes to show people how to use fruits and veggies they aren’t familiar with…. like turnips.

Food and garden education, better communication between farm and pantry – this is the new face in the fight against food insecurity in Indiana.

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