Officials concerned about food deserts following Marsh closures

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Several Marsh Supermarkets have closed recently and more are expected in the coming weeks. This is increasing concerns about so-called food deserts in the state of Indiana.

Officials at Gleaners Food Bank and Midwest Food bank believe upcoming Marsh closures will force more Hoosiers to seek out food pantries to meet their needs.

“Any time there’s a tightening of access and availability of food, that certainly impacts the people that we serve,” said Gleaners Food Bank Marketing Director, Sarah Estell. “I think we could very well see an increase in people standing in line and in need, and the amount of food we need to distribute there.”

“We do expect to see folks increasing trips to pantries that haven’t been there before,” said Midwest Food Bank Executive Director, John Whitaker. “When these things happen, such as the Marsh closings, they definitely impact the community that they’re in.”

Food deserts, as identified by the USDA, are areas where a third of the population are considered low income and are living more than a mile from a grocery store. In many of these areas, people don’t have cars or other means of transportation to get to the store.

Several of the Marsh store locations scheduled to close in the next couple weeks are either located in an existing food desert, or right on the edge of one.

Marsh stores set to close on May 6 are:

  • 1240 N State St., Greenfield
  • 2135 N. Post Rd., Indianapolis

Marsh stores set to close on May 14 are:

  • 6243 E. Washington St Indianapolis
  • 5104 N. Franklin St., Indianapolis
  • 7481 Shadeland Ave., Indianapolis
  • 2021 E. Wabash St., Frankfort
  • 824 N. Third St, Logansport
  • 218 W. Lincoln Ave., Portland

The Greenfield Marsh store set to close May 6 is located on the edge of a food desert. The Franklin Street, Shadeland Avenue and Washington Street locations in Indianapolis are all in a food desert or on the very edge of one.

Estell is concerned that the closures of those stores will make it more difficult for people in the area who struggle with finding adequate food sources.

“Especially for the elderly or children who are, you know 50-percent of the food-insecure people in Indiana are one of those two groups,” Estell said.

Estell also said Gleaners may have to adjust where their mobile food pantries visit in the wake of the store closures.

“Store closings and an increasing number of food deserts puts a lot of stress and pressure on that system,” she said.

Whitaker adds that some people who supplement their grocery shopping with trips to neighborhood food pantries may have to start relying more heavily on those pantries if a Marsh closure leaves them with no other options near their home.

“For someone that’s on a limited or fixed income, there aren’t a lot of options other than to head to a pantry or a soup kitchen,” Whitaker said.

In the meantime, speculation continues about the future of Marsh as a company. Several area stores have already closed in recent months. Marsh has also sold its in-store pharmacies to CVS, and sold off its liquor at 40-percent discounts. What comes next remains unclear.

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