Lawmaker looks to help solve urban food deserts

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – In the middle of winter and in the middle of the city, ‘desert’ may not be the first word that comes to mind. But Representative Justin Moed, a state lawmaker from Indianapolis, says when it comes to fresh, affordable food, that’s exactly what certain parts of the city are.

“There are areas around our city here in Indianapolis where people don’t have easy access to high-quality produce, fruit, fresh meat, eggs, or milk,” he said. “And when that happens, they’re left with choices like the gas station or fast food. And because of that, those are unhealthy choices and more expensive choices.”

So Moed has authored a bill in the legislature to do something about it.

“I’m asking the Department of Agriculture and other agencies to come together and let’s start a conversation about what we can do to bridge the gap,” Moed said.

House Bill 1248 would require the state Department of Agriculture to “develop and promote programs in support of urban farming, food cooperatives, and farmers’ markets.”

Moed cited Pogue’s Run, a market on the east side, as an example of what’s helping local neighborhoods. The grocery is owned and operated by the Indy Food Co-Op.

“It’s great because I ride my bike so driving is a little bit of a problem when you have to go far away,” said Kyle Mobley, a neighborhood resident who also works at the market.

“I think that, as a state with such a long, rich history and tradition of farming, we shouldn’t have a problem where we have people that don’t have access to fresh fruit and produce,” said Moed.

The bill, assigned to the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, is still a work in progress. Moed said he’s working with state agencies and other groups to come up with what exactly some of the programs would look like and how they would help.

“How do we reduce the barriers for small farmers and new farmers to get into the market and sell their produce? How do we make sure they have a place to sell? asked Moed. “Let’s start a conversation about what we can do to bridge the gap.”

Moed said start-up capital and land access are often barriers for new growers. He said he’d also like to come up with a way to help them easily and efficiently navigate their way through the permitting process.

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