Council easily passes mayor’s $580K strategy to fight food insecurity

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday voted 20-4 to approve Mayor Joe Hogsett’s $580,000 plan to “test strategies” to combat food insecurity in Indianapolis.

The plan calls for spending $140,000 on a six-month pilot program with Lyft to help shuttle Indianapolis residents in food deserts to grocery stores; $200,000 to fund a mobile grocery store that will stop in food deserts; $175,000 to launch a “food compass” app to help residents find the nearest grocery stores or food pantries; and $65,000 to send “food advocates” to a 12-week training program.

The programs are to being funded by excess county option income taxes that the state returned to the city.

The plan also includes spending $320,000 on public-safety related programs, including funding for new “peacekeepers” for the city, bringing the total to $900,000.

Voting against the ordinance were Republicans Jefferson Shreve, Jason Holliday, Brian Mowery and John Wesseler.

“This is not the best thing to spend $900,000 on, and for that reason, I am not going to vote for it,” Shreve said before voting.

The federal government says that about 175,000 people in Indianapolis—or about 20% of the population—face food insecurity, meaning that they have limited or uncertain access to adequate food.

“This proposal jump-starts some solid ideas” Council President Vop Osili said in written remarks after the vote. “We’re taking ideas that are shovel ready, based on input from a range of community members and implementing them today—with the understanding that we may make additional changes to keep serving our neighborhoods better as we go forward.”

Republican mayoral candidate state Sen. Jim Merritt, who has been critical of the plan, remained so after the vote.

“While I am disappointed not to get more movement on proposal 258 toward real efforts to solve food apartheid in our community, I appreciate that the council at least began a discussion about the wisdom of Mayor Hogsett’s corporate boondoggles versus true community building,” he said in a written statement.

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