There’s nothing fair about a food desert.
The USDA defines food deserts as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.” In other words, there are no grocery stores, no farmers markets. Food comes from whatever fast food is available, or possibly from a gas station.
Like all major metropolitan areas, Indianapolis has food deserts; in fact, a recent Walk Score Report ranked Indianapolis as the worst city in the country for food deserts. You’ll find plenty of grocery stores on the city’s perimeter, some downtown, and nothing in between.
But there is a model in our city for transforming our food deserts into thriving centers of locally produced, healthful food – AND centers of entrepreneurship and community solidarity.
The Indy Food Co-op is a member-owned organization whose mission is to serve urban Indianapolis with a full-service natural products grocery store: Pogue’s Run Grocer, located at 2828 E. 10th street. The Co-op does this by offering reasonably priced memberships that provide an economic base for the grocery. Importantly, you do not have to be a member to shop at Pogues Run, but members do receive some additional benefits, including member discounts on select merchandise and classes and events, plus the ability to vote on general membership matters.
Pogue’s Run offers an impressive array of locally produced fresh, natural and organic foods, from fruit and produce to meats and dairy, at affordable prices. The Deli is a popular stop for patrons, offering bag lunches, platters, soups, salads, sides, drinks and cookies.
But Pogue’s Run is more than a grocery store. It’s also a resource and education center for the neighborhood. “Pogue’s Run is in a classic food desert,” says General Manager, Nathan Roberts. “We try to use the store as a way to start conversation.” With assistance from the Pogue’s Run staff, shoppers are introduced to a wide variety of exceptional quality foods. “Since we have an educated staff, teaching people how to the cook in the aisles has always been a focus of how we do things…If you want to learn how to cook you have to be willing to mess up, and that’s almost the first step in eating better.” For residents of the area, Pogue’s Run can help make healthy food and cooking a positive part of each day.
Pogue’s Run makes good, healthy, fair food accessible to an entire neighborhood. Ultimately, the Indy Food Co-op hopes to open additional groceries in food deserts around Indianapolis, making fair food accessible to all our citizens. Why? Because it’s the FAIR thing to do.
About the Author
Lorrie Wehr is an Indianapolis writer and sometimes-artist who believes sharing good food is the key to a good life.