Locally produced foods serve guests attending the Fourth Annual Local Food Summit of Muncie and East Central Indiana on Nov. 6 at Ball State University. (Photo: Seth Slabaugh, The Star Press)
Locally produced foods serve guests attending the Fourth Annual Local Food Summit of Muncie and East Central Indiana on Nov. 6 at Ball State University. (Photo: Seth Slabaugh, The Star Press)
MUNCIE — While a lot is being done at the local level, the state of Indiana is doing little to help communities increase the availability of fresh and affordable local food, state Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said earlier this month at the fourth annual Local Food Summit of Muncie and East Central Indiana.

Local efforts here include soup kitchens, food pantries, community gardens, rescuing food thrown out by restaurants, food giveaways known as tailgates, and neighborhood food boxes resembling the little free library boxes around town.

"If you had mentioned food insecurity or food desert maybe 10 years ago, a lot of people would say, 'What are you talking about?' " Lanane said.

The bankruptcy of Marsh Supermarkets was a wake-up call for many state lawmakers, including Lanane, who lived less than half a mile from a Marsh that closed, leaving the entire west side of the city "within that well-defined definition of a food desert," Lanane said.

More than one out of every 10 Hoosiers is deemed food insecure, meaning they're living with food-access problems or limitations. It's an issue in both rural and urban areas and in every county.

In Muncie, which Lanane represents, the problem is most acute on the northeast side, in off-campus areas near Ball State University, in neighborhoods around downtown, and in the Industry neighborhood north of Heekin Park.

"I'd say for at least 10 years now, we've realized there is something the state could do to help this," Lanane said during the summit hosted by Ball State University. "We just haven't been able to legislate anything up to this point in time."

The most the Legislature has been able to do so far, he said, was to assign the matter to an interim study committee that met twice in 2017.
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