When was the last time you gave much thought to the status of Indianapolis’s food system? We’ve all most likely noticed the increase in farmer’s markets and the growing trend towards farm-to-table, but what about the shortcomings within our current food system?

A recent study conducted by IUPUI revealed that the food system in Indianapolis, as well as in many other metropolitan areas, just isn’t working well for the community. The statistics for Marion County are staggering: ⅔ of adults are overweight or obese, while one in five don’t know where their next meal will come from. Of the 31,285 students enrolled in IPS schools for the 2013-2014 school year, nearly 5,000 suffered from chronic malnourishment. At the same time, Hoosiers spend approximately $16 billion on food each year, with 90 percent being imported from out of state. On average, our food travels 1,400 miles to get to our grocery stores.

Luckily, a group of food system stakeholders, from all parts of the food system and all walks of life, have come together to, not only identify these shortcomings, but have moved with decisive action to begin remedying this problem.

Officially launched in February of 2014, after a year of collaboration and outreach efforts, the Indy Food Council has established and begun working towards four main objectives:

1. Support the growing local food movement in Indianapolis through the selection of catalytic food projects that will increase the amount of food grown locally, create and serve the demand for local food, and use sustainable growing practices.
2. Improve the health of Indianapolis residents, with increased access to healthy food.
3. Synergize community development, using food-related projects as tools to create a sense of place, foster civic engagement, and beautify our neighborhoods.
4. Create a sustainable metropolitan area, with residents linked to their local food system, thereby reducing Indianapolis’ carbon footprint and energy consumption while increasing food security. working to catalyze ideas and support our food system through various initiatives.

To accomplish these goals, the Indy Food Council operates on four main committees addressing ecology, economy, health and social justice. Each of these four components is crucial to securing a permanent restructuring of our food system.

One specific project, The Indy Food Fund, allocates grants for food related projects and organizations. As of July 2014, the Indy Food Fund has doled out $63,550 in grant money to various organizations and projects throughout the city.

The Food Council advisory committee hired Whitney Fields, Program Manager, to oversee these initiatives and to work in collaboration with all members to ensure the aggressive pursuit of their mission. Fields says, “The Food Fund looks to help out those projects that wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without these grants.”

In addition to the Food Fund, the Indy Food Council has formed Food Fellowships with Butler University, Marian University, the University of Indianapolis, and IUPUI. The fellowships connect college and graduate students with food related internships on a yearly basis.

“Our goals are ambitious,” Fields admits. “We move forward by building relationships, and also realizing that there’s no one clear solution for everyone and every problem. We need to treat people and their circumstances in very different ways and be adaptable to change, offering solutions based the individual needs of communities.”

For ways to get involved visit indyfoodcouncil.org.

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