INDIANAPOLIS — Warren Watford spent his Easter Sunday grilling up pork rib tips, turkey tips and turkey legs from a barbeque grill pulled behind a U Haul truck parked in the 3300 block of Forest Manor Avenue.
“Its a blessed and beautiful day, the sun is shining and it’s giving me rays of hope,” Watford said, the scent of BBQ pouring out of the grill of his Street Meats temporary location.
Kylon Andrews balanced a Styrofoam container full of hot pork rib tips, never minding the smoke that swirled around his street-side meal as I walked up.
“Happy Easter to you, brother,” Andrews said, tearing into another sauce-slathered tip before he took his wife to dinner at a proper steakhouse. “It’s my appetizer. I had to have some rib tips and I seen him out here trying to make some money and I’ll just support him. Ain’t no restaurants around here.”
Andrews and Watford hit it on the nose that the communities that make up City County Councilor Duke Oliver’s District 9 are starving for good eats in a food desert short on table service restaurants and grocery stores that don’t pump gasoline outside.
“We have more filling stations that sell more groceries than anything else,” said Oliver.
The longtime councilor is hoping to change that with his share of the $625,000 in grant money the Council is doling out district-by-district to council members.
Oliver’s district is in line for $32,500 in funding during Phase 1, to be handed out this summer as the Council makes itself fiscally responsible for the efficacy of grants intended to prevent crime.
“Poverty is the leading cause, specifically unemployment, food desert, etc. (that) contributes to those who are arrested for crimes. It’s kind of a profile that they match,” said Oliver, who wants to focus on the lack of affordable food choices for his eastside neighbors and, “try to encourage investors to locate in our area to eliminate that. That’s an issue for many households to have to drive several miles to get quality food. Many of us in the area where I live right now have to go to a gas station to buy butter, to buy milk.”
Back at Street Meats, Andrews sees the link between hunger and crime.
“Once you know that you don’t got no food, and there’s nothing around here to survive, the first thing you know the youngsters do; they try to steal cupcakes from the gas station,” he said. “It’s kinda hard to even try to survive to eat something around here.”
As Andrews finished his pork tips, his wife waited patiently for a ride to a proper dinner.
“Kinda sucks because all the restaurants are on Shadeland or Arlington and you gotta drive a distance and some people don’t got gas or you gotta walk to it,” he said. “It’s a struggle.”
Originally, the Council estimated it would make available approximately $1.3 million over the course of a year to districts so that councilors could weigh in on specific crime prevention programs for their neighborhoods.
Some of Indianapolis’ hardest hit districts will receive $40,000 in grant funding during the opening phase, others as little as $10,000.
The Council and the Central Indiana Community Foundation are accepting grant proposals through April.
To apply, click the link below: