Flanner House grocery store opens its doors in food desert

Flanner House grocery store

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Flanner House held the grand opening for a new corner grocery store Thursday afternoon.

The store, Cleo’s Bodega, is on Martin Luther King Jr. Street and it was funded in part with a $400,000 grant from the city. The hope is it will help some of the 200,000 people in Indy who live in a food desert.  

Thursday morning it was all hands on deck. There were trucks to unload and shelves to stock while the finishing touches were still being made to the building hours before the doors opened.  

Cleo’s Bodega built, funded and staffed by the Flanner House. Brandon Cosby is the Executive Director of Flanner House, he says the intention of the project is to change how people think about grocery shopping.

“Where you don’t go shopping for two weeks, you go and get what you need for two days,” explained Cosby. 

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According to census data collected by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis almost 50% of the people within a mile of Flanner House accept food stamps. There are no grocery stores, supermarkets or farmers markets within the area and according to Cosby there is no expectation of a big-box grocery store opening anytime soon.

“For example the median income in this neighborhood would have to come up by 40 thousand dollars a year for a big-box grocery store to be sustainable, which essentially means you are displacing all of the residents here for other people for that store to be able to exist here,” said Cosby. 

One of the busy hands stocking the shelves Thursday morning belonged to Calvin Campbell who says he grew up in the neighborhood and is now working full time at Cleo’s along with his father and sister. 

“Seeing other people my age and younger struggling to find food and struggling to be able to eat, some of them don’t even know half of the vegetables that are in grocery stores as of right now,” said Campbell.

Much of the fresh produce sold in the store will come from community gardens, which according to Cosby can be sold at a lower price than buying wholesale. The closing of neighborhood grocery store Double 8 five years ago has given life to 80 backyard gardens. 

Cleo’s Bodega was funded with a $400,000 grant from the city to Flanner House.