Shellye Suttles is the food policy and program coordinator in Indianapolis. Suttles works within Mayor Joe Hogsett’s Office of Public Health and Safety to increase food security (the availability of affordable, healthful food) of Indianapolis residents. A former Peace Corps volunteer, Shellye Suttles stands for the residents of Indianapolis and Marion County, giving voice to their food-related issues. It is her mission to improve food access and promote community and economic development through food and agriculture. “I think it’s important that my position is not titled ‘director,’ or ‘manager’ – my role is identified as ‘coordinator.’ My focus is on using all the tools in my toolbox – from a government, business, and community perspective – to assist in creating a food system that best serves residents’ needs and wants,” says Suttles. She views the food system as a collective structure that includes not only the food itself, but also the people behind the process.

Suttles realizes that the food system affects and is built by Indianapolis residents of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. This explains why she feels that relationships are the backbone to strong, sufficient problem solving. “As a Peace Corps volunteer, I quickly learned that relationship building is key. I think many food-related issues will be solved once we can get outside of our comfort zone and build new relationships to discover the challenges we all face and the strengths we all have to overcome those challenges,” she says.

Since her position is new to city government, Shellye has had time to identify three primary areas where Indianapolis can improve its food system: food security, food access and food economics. “In the realm of food security, we work with the Indy Hunger Network (a collective impact organization that includes Gleaners Food Bank, Midwest Food Bank, Second Helpings, St. Vincent de Paul, Meals on Wheels, etc.) to build a more robust food system that ensures anyone who is hungry can access the nutritious food they need,” says Suttles. In her work, Shellye hopes to send the message that with a little bit of research and relationship building “and a little bit of lunch,” we can do anything in Indianapolis.

Shellye Suttles
City of Indianapolis Food Policy & Program Coordinator

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