Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Thursday a plan to use $500,000 in federal dollars to subsidize the development of one or more retail grocery stores in food-insecure and low-income areas of the city.
The program seeks to “lower costs and incentivize the development of retail grocery stores,” according to a press release from the city. It is being funded through money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development via the Community Development Block Grant program.
“Too many of our neighbors have limited access to grocery stores, making it nearly impossible to feed their families healthy, fresh food,” Hogsett said in the release. “Through the Healthy Food Access Program, we are working to invest in the development and expansion of food retail businesses that in return can bring new jobs to neighborhoods that need them most.”
Eligible projects must be for the real estate development of brick-and-mortar retail grocery stores.
Applications to receive the funding are being accepted through Oct. 20, and a review committee expects to announce award funding in December.
Officials could decide to award the funds to a single project or spread the funding over more than one grocery, according to a Department of Metropolitan Development spokeswoman. The review committee would much such determinations.
The city says preference would be given based on job creation, proximity to residential areas, the potential for neighborhood revitalization and proximity to transit—with the highest preference going to projects within a half mile of a future IndyGo bus rapid transit line.
The city has been grappling with the concept of food deserts, which are defined by the FDA as areas in which residents must travel a mile or more to find groceries. The problem has been exacerbated by grocery store closures, in particular the closures of four Double 8 stores in 2015 and the recent spate of Marsh Supermarkets closures.
Shellye Suttles, food policy and program coordinator for the city, said “making high-quality, fresh food accessible by many is critical to fighting food insecurity.”
"This program aims to connect developers with the resources needed to create strong neighborhood anchors that contribute to healthy lifestyles,” Suttles said in the release.