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Marginalized communities feel impact of Walmart closed over health concerns

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Every Monday afternoon, a food giveaway happens at the Far Eastside Neighborhood Center.

After the Marion County Public Health Department temporarily closed a major grocery retailer at 10735 Pendleton Pike in Lawrence, the pressure on the center’s food giveaway grew.

Cheria Caldwell of Community Alliance of the Far Eastside Inc. said,  “Corporations might take our community for granted, and we have to come together to be able to let businesses know that you can’t treat us this way.”

On a cold, overcast Monday afternoon, several hundred people lined up for assistance. The line of cars extended out of a parking lot onto Post Road. The need for food assistance has grown steadily as neighborhood grocery stores have closed and an east side food desert has expanded.   

“Over the last several years, we have had multiple grocery stores close, such as the neighborhood Walmart, Kroger and the Marsh’s in the area, so, starting in 2020 as a response to the pandemic as well as the closing of the grocery stores, we started this food distribution, and we are serving roughly 700 families a month now. That gap is obviously going to increase with the closure of the Walmart on Pendelton Pike,” Caldwell said.

The health department on Monday reinspected the Pendelton Pike Walmart and approved the store to resume operations covered by the food license, with the exception of the deli and bakery. Those areas will remain closed as a precaution.

I-Team 8 was told cleaning crews inside of this Walmart are scrubbing every surface in the store. 

Caldwell said, “As a community we have to come together to figure out ways to combat these things from continuing to happen and we have to hold these corporations accountable because we put our trust in them as a neighbor, so they should treat us neighborly and make sure the stores are up to code so our residents can continue to shop there.”

Caldwell told I-Team 8, even as the store is given the green light to reopen, some trust issues that need to be addressed. “Because what we run into is not only are they letting the community down, they are letting other organizations down who rely on them to be able to continue to serve the community in the capacity they said they would.”

Emails from I-Team 8 to Walmart have not been answered.

The Marion County Public Health Department says it will continue to monitor the store, which is scheduled for a recheck on Wednesday.