Entrepreneurs deliver healthy produce to Indianapolis 'food deserts'

Organic food delivery company teams with regional healthcare organization to deliver fruits and vegetables to low-income neighborhoods.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

What do you get when you combine an entrepreneurial organic food delivery company with a regional healthcare system interested helping address obesity and unhealthy eating habits in under-served, low-income neighbors?

You get a program like Garden on the Go, a service that brings fresh fruits and vegetables to a dozen such "food deserts" in the Indianapolis area. For those readers unfamiliar with the term, the phrase food desert refers to urban neighborhoods or areas where it is difficult to find healthy food options. Garden on the Go is a partnership between Indiana University Health and Green B.E.A.N. Delivery, an online delivery company that provides organic produce and natural groceries to customers in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne in Indiana; Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus in Ohio; and Louisville, Ky.

The Garden on the Go initiative was driven by statistics that show approximately 29 percent of adolescents and 65 percent of adults in the state of Indiana are obese or overweight.

"For many of our customers, mobility is a huge issue. ... Three blocks can be as much as three miles. We will even do personal shopping for some," said Lincoln Saunders, director of the Garden on the Go program, which hit the street in early May in Marion County near Indianapolis. Within weeks, two additional stops were added.

Saunders said that a large majority of the customers who have embraced the program during its initial months are repeat ones. What's more, the program has already added two stops in order to accommodate demand for the produce. "Everything that we sell is more affordably priced than most retail outlets ... This idea was ripe and ready for a customer base," he said.

Let's be clear, this is not a profit-making venture. The program, which is funded by IU Health, is intended to help change local eating habits with the aim of showcasing demand for healthy food alternatives in neighborhoods that have few other alternatives. IU Health plans to fund the program for approximately one year, and the two partners hope to create a model for other communities to replicate the effort.

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