Editorial: Solving food access problems requires coordinated efforts

We’ve been excited about the Indy Fresh Market grocery store since Cook Group and its partners, including Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana, announced it last year.

The store is a sort of companion to the Cook Group manufacturing facility that opened earlier this year at 38th Street and Sheridan Avenue.

The store, which is expected to open in late 2023, is part of a larger effort to provide opportunities in a lower-income, majority-Black neighborhood. It will also address a food desert. And most immediately notable is that it invests money in the neighborhood through minority contractors.

In fact, a new report projects a one-time economic impact of $11.1 million, as well as an annual impact of $4.6 million in wages, benefits and other spending. The estimates are part of an economic impact study by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute.

The 16,700-square-foot store will be located at 6190 E. 38th St. The reports says it will employ 39 people, and another 22 full-time-equivalent jobs would be created for related businesses due to the store’s operations.

Of course, it’s hard to know whether such estimates will be accurate. But it’s clear the grocery store, which will be managed—and eventually owned—by two people in the neighborhood, has the potential to be an important resource for the people in the Arlington Woods neighborhood.

As IBJ reporter Taylor Wooten reports, the area is classified as a food desert, which means most residents live over a mile from a grocery store.

“Through neighborhood meetings and conversations around the development of the manufacturing facility, we recognized that lack of access to fresh food options is a stumbling block to residents’ success,” said Pete Yonkman, president of Cook Medical.

Of course, Arlington Woods is not alone. According to the IU study, 47% of Marion County residents live in a food desert.

Solving that problem will take significant coordinated efforts—and the Cook partnership with Goodwill as well as Impact Central Indiana and Martin University is an amazing example of the kinds of innovative solutions that can be used to solve the problem.

IndyGo’s Purple Line, now under construction, is another potential solution. The Purple Line—which will run from downtown to Lawrence—will help connect residents from other parts of Indianapolis to the Cook Group plant and the grocery next door, as well as to other groceries in the area.

But as one city councilor noted in Wooten’s story this week, additional infrastructure, including sidewalks and other bus lines, are needed to make the Purple Line effective.

“I am a big proponent of mass transit, and I’m very happy for it, but it’s not enough,” Ali Brown said.

No one solution is enough, which is why we are happy to see work happening from several angles. And we’re confident there’s more innovation that will happen.•

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