Advocates pushing legislation to shrink Indiana’s food deserts will have another chance this summer to convince lawmakers of the bill’s merits.
But the pending closure of two Indiana-based grocery store chains and debates among Indiana Republicans mean the problem doesn’t have an easy solution.
A food desert – as defined in recent legislation – is any area of the state where at least a quarter of residents are below the poverty line and at least a third live a significant distance from any grocery store.
But legislation addressing the problem has repeatedly failed in the General Assembly – including this year, when House Ways and Means chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) said his key question hadn’t been answered – why grocery stores are closing or not locating in food desert.
“We could throw lots of dollars, we could throw lots of programming, but we haven’t addressed what I think we need to look at – why is it a problem?” Brown says.
Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport) has tried for years to shepherd the bill through the process. He says his fellow Republicans think he’s trying to create another welfare program. But he believes it could help reform welfare.
“People on welfare can have their food stamps go further buying health food that’s cheaper than they can buying processed foods,” Head says.
Lawmakers will study food deserts again this summer, though they considered the issue in a study committee last year with no success.