Case Studies

Building Community Solutions from the Ground Up

Community Controlled Food Initiative

Key Elements of Project
  • Youth-Led Conversations
  • Community Organizing and Public Forums
  • Research on models/best practices in other cities

One summer morning in 2015 local Indianapolis news outlets ran headlines “Double 8 closures shock neighbors, create ‘Food Deserts’”

In July 2015, Double 8 grocery closed its last 4 stores near downtown Indianapolis which served predominantly poor and black neighborhoods. There was a subsequent panic over an Indianapolis food crisis.

This blow followed subsequent stories the year before announcing that Indianapolis ranked worst in the nation for “food deserts” defined as people who cannot walk to a grocery store in 5 minutes and a certain level of poverty.

Important Numbers
  • Members in the first year
  • Pounds of healthy produce distributed
  • Volunteer hours

As a reaction churches and community groups organized shuttles on Sundays to take people from former Double 8 parking lots to the closest stores. Then Mayoral candidate Joe Hogsett made a campaign promise to hire a Food Policy Director for the city if elected (which he did).

Kheprw Institute (KI) with the help of Scarabys’ leadership team held a 3 part series of community conversations titled: Youth-led Conversation on Double 8; Race, Poverty and Food; Community Solutions and Alternative Food Systems.

The first of these conversations was facilitated by KI’s middle school and high school interns and was attended by near 100 concerned residents. The youth did research to dig deeper beyond the issue of “food deserts” and examined the connection between poverty, race and food access.

They presented their findings as a panel and took questions and helped to facilitate an often difficult and emotional discussion. The objective was to provide a safe space for community to express their feelings, build relationships with others in the neighborhood passionate about the issue and move people to action based on the resources we have.

At the time the mainstream media and politicians focused on the idea of attracting and incentivizing grocery stores to open up in poor communities. Part of our discussion emphasized not waiting for millions of dollars to do this, but looking for what we could do to improve food access and empower residents based on our own resource base.

Out of these three events a group of residents decided to continue meeting and look for creative solutions.

From this we learned about New Roots a food justice organization in Louisville, KY. They use a community-led model called Fresh Stops, which is where community buys collectively from local farmers to provide fresh, healthy food.

In the Fall of 2015 we visited Louisville and learned from New Roots which prepared us to launch a monthly potluck called The Good Food Feast, which was used as a vehicle to attract supporters, build relationships and start collecting membership to launch in in June 2016.

In June 2016 the Community Controlled Food Initiative was born. Since then we’ve operated with an average of 30 members each month, engaging volunteers, and distributing fresh, healthy and affordable food in community.

What is the community controlled food initiative?
  • Community-led food cooperative that buys directly from local farmers in Indianapolis
  • Food distribution once a month at the Good Food Feast where people share food, build relationships and participate in cooking demos.
  • Started with no funding, based on the work of volunteers and the buying power of members ($25/month)