Representative Vanessa Summers’ study committee on food deserts comes to fruition

June 6, 2017 Vanessa Summers

For immediate release:
June 6, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Vanessa Summers (D-Indianapolis) has long been an advocate and champion of reducing food deserts in Indiana. She authored a bill in the 2017 legislative session to create a study committee to investigate remedies for this significant and growing problem. Through the bill she offered, House Bill 1643, and legislative efforts by Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport), the Legislative Council assigned the topic to the Interim Study Committee on Government.

“Most Hoosiers don’t know the extent of food deserts in our state,” said Summers. “The Food and Drug Administration declared that half of Indiana’s counties are food deserts, which is basically any area where at least a fourth of the residents live below the poverty level and a third live a significant distance from a grocery store. These are also areas where fresh food accounts for less than 10 percent of the accessible and available food.

“With the close of the Double 8 Foods stores in my district and the Marsh stores closing around the state, I am familiar with food deserts,” explained Summers. “Several of my constituents face a situation where they have to travel a mile or more to get to a grocery store. These are individuals who cannot afford to own cars to get to grocery stores, so it is a series of bus rides they must take in order to buy a couple of sacks of groceries.

“It can take hours to travel on three different bus routes in order to get to the grocery store and then home, just to get milk, bread and the basics,” continued Summers.

“However, while some think this is an urban issue, the problem is also significant in rural Indiana where transportation is not available and there is no access to a nearby grocery store. It is essential the General Assembly take up this issue, because Indiana residents should not do without fresh food, yet half of our state does.”

The Indiana General Assembly assigned the topic to a study committee in 2016, but did not pass any bills in 2017 to reclaim the food deserts with fresh, healthy foods.

“Soon, Marsh stores across the state will lock their doors for good,” added Summers. “We must do something to prevent hunger and provide healthy choices, especially for the children of our state. Food deserts erode the ability of Hoosiers to live healthy and prosperous lives.

“It is time for the General Assembly to plant the seeds for ending this barren condition that has devastated so many communities and neighborhoods,” concluded Summers. “I look forward to the legislative study committee offering viable solutions that can be passed by the 2018 General Assembly and quickly implemented throughout our state.”