Marsh Supermarkets and the Charter

As many of our consistent readers know, the Earth Charter principles are founded in equality, sustainability, justice, and peace. The Charter encompasses global issues, but here at Earth Charter Indiana we like to use these Monday Memos to show how these broad principles and values translate here to issues we are experiencing at home.  This includes having equal access to healthy foods no matter what neighborhood you live in.

Marsh supermarkets around Indiana are closing and it raises the question, do our low-income communities have access to fresh foods? These closings come after the closings in 2015 of the Double 8 stores that served many lower-income neighborhoods. Although Marsh had a reputation for being a bit pricier, they did take food stamps and had a wide range of food choices and prices available.  Now, many communities across the State will find themselves in a newfound food desert.

Studies show that many low-income communities, and communities of color do not have sufficient opportunities to buy healthy, affordable food. The consequences of this are clear: decreased access to healthy food means people in low-income communities suffer more from diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes than those in higher- income neighborhoods with easy access to healthy food. Inequitable access to healthy food is one of the leading contributors for health disparities around the nation.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that adult obesity rates are 5% higher for African American individuals than whites, and 21% higher for Latinos. Black and Latino children are also more likely to become obese than white children. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2009 “Food desert” study examined access to supermarkets and determined that 23. 5 million people cannot access a supermarket within one mile of their home.

As we enter into a time when you can pay to get your groceries delivered to your door, how does this affect our low-income communities. Is this service available to everyone? Obviously not, as Peapod (and others) isn’t accepting food-stamps, and there is an additional delivery charge for the service. Although these services are not accessible to low-income families, they are driving the competition- and clearly they are winning. Brick-and-mortar grocery stores are not getting the sales they use to, and they simply cannot keep up with operations.

As grocery stores keep closing, and programs like Free School Lunch for kids are on the chopping block, we have to ask ourselves, what can we do about it? An article on what next steps should be can be found at the Kheprw Institute, entitled “From the closing of Double 8 to Marsh: Food Access Apocalypse in Central Indiana”. The article mentions the need for community residents to lead the effort on what they need in their communities. What is to become of these empty stores? Where are residents going to get their food? The best way to make change happen is to get involved, and bring the right voices to the table. That most likely does not mean a room full of white people making the decisions.

- by Kait Baffoe

Earth Charter