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New legislation aims to alleviate food deserts

Back home in Indianapolis and in Washington, DC, efforts are underway to help Hoosiers living in so-called "food deserts."
People who don't have cars often end up walking long distances to grocery stores.

When four Double 8 Foods stores closed in Indianapolis last year, their departure created food deserts. That's when people have to go outside of their neighborhood to shop.

Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN) announced new legislation Thursday to provide assistance to people who live in these food deserts. A report named Indianapolis the worst in the country for food deserts.

If Congressman Carson's bill is passed, the Department of Agriculture will provide grants to each state. The state will then give out loans to for-profit or non-profit businesses to open a grocery store in an underserved area.

"Overnight, thousands of Hoosiers lost access to the only grocery store they had available. Now these were low-income families often without cars or access to public transit, living miles from the closest store," said Rep. Carson.

So what is it like to live in a food desert? 

Maxine Thomas knew she had to take action when her local Double 8 on the Indianapolis near northwest side closed down after 58 years. She posted a note on the door.  It said, "f you need a ride let her know." And they are.

Indianapolis neighborhood looking to solve "food desert" problem

Maxine Thomas has taken upon herself to help others who live in a food desert. Today she's picking up a neighbor on the near north side on Ruckle.

"This is my neighborhood. I grew up here," she said as she picked up her neighbor to give her a ride to the supermarket.

"So the day they closed the store my heart sunk. How are these people going to get to the store?" she wondered aloud as she navigated the heavy rain she was driving through.

The Double 8 grocery store had served the neighborhood for 58 years. Now if the residents want fresh produce, they have a long walk or wait for the bus.  There are Family Dollar and Dollar Generals that are closer, but they don't sell fresh produce.

"Some folks don't have means of transportation to the store or the funds to pay for transportation or have a family member to come, and so I feel like it was something I needed to do. I didn't know what and I didn't know how, but I knew I had a vehicle and it was a start," Maxine declared.

Today Ethel McClury needed to get groceries.

"We don't have a grocery store," Ethel observed.

So thankfully she got a ride from Maxine.

I asked her about how she would normally arrange transportation.

"You got to get up and down with groceries on the bus and see, I am up in my age," she pointed out.  At age 82, she doesn't need much but she still needs groceries. She is willing to walk but admittedly can't walk as far as she used to.

Her husband wasn't feeling well Thursday so she was on her own.

She lives right in the middle of a big city - with no place to shop for groceries.

"That is right. It would be nice if they would put a grocery store back where it was. We would appreciate it so much," she said.

Standing back in front of the closed-down Double 8 Grocery store, the front door is now covered with plywood - so Maxine's note offering to give rides is now gone.

Now it is every family for themselves.