Politics

Indianapolis expands free produce program as part of White House hunger push

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — City officials on Wednesday said encouraging healthy eating habits among low-income families will help address a host of public health issues.

The city launched phase 2 of its “Good Food for All” program in conjunction with President Joe Biden’s Wednesday conference on combating hunger in the United States. Officials said local relief groups will connect the city with up to 1,000 families in need. The families will receive a box containing up to 20 lbs of produce each week for 10 weeks, after which they will receive a card they can use to purchase produce at a discount at local grocery stores or through Instacart.

The program is in cooperation with the Partnership for a Healthier America. Spokesperson Jason Wilson said it matches the Biden Administration’s goal of reorienting America’s food aid programs toward public health needs. The president noted in his remarks research has conclusively linked diet with risk of heart disease, diabetes and a host of other chronic conditions.

“The long-term impact of (access to healthy food) is preventing diseases from ever happening in the first place,” Wilson said. “And as you can probably guess, that’s going to reduce burdens on everything from our health care system, it’s going to improve the quality of education, it’s going to lift up all Americans, not just in Indianapolis.”

Milele Kennedy, director of the Division of Community Nutrition and Food Policy for Indianapolis’ Office of Public Health and Safety, said the program’s ultimate goal is to not only encourage healthy eating habits but also teach people how to find healthier options around them. She said when city officials followed up with people who took part in phase 1 of the program last year, they found up to 70 percent of participants had retained healthy eating habits even after the food aid ended.

“The program specifically provides that opportunity for residents to be able to get those healthy, nutritious items that maybe they aren’t able to afford or just don’t know that they should be eating,” Kennedy said, adding the program also provides recipes to help people find ways to incorporate produce into their diet.

Kennedy and Wilson both said program managers will begin contacting families in need later this fall.