Saturday, March 2, 2024

Indy Fresh Market: A fresh take on combating food insecurity

Customers shopping at the farm fresh meat department at Indy Fresh Market.

Indy Fresh Market opened in fall 2023, helping to solve the problem of food insecurity on the east side of Indianapolis. Owners and operators Michael McFarland and Marckus Williams developed plans for the store in partnership with Cook Medical, IMPACT, Martin University, United Northeast Community Development Corporation, Goodwill, neighborhood leaders, the City of Indianapolis and national grocery store expert Joe the Grocer.

Indianapolis natives McFarland and Williams opened the 16,700-square-foot grocery store to help improve the quality of life for families in the neighborhood.

“We need food around here. Kroger is gone. Safeway is gone. Walmart is gone. The closest store is five miles away, so we have to do something to provide for our community,” said Williams.

They pride themselves on being locally owned with local employees. They offer a full-service grocery store with fresh produce and a variety of meat and deli options.

The fresh and local produce selection of Indy Fresh Market.

According to Second Helpings, 13% of the total population and 23% of children in Marion County were food insecure in 2020. A convenience survey by the Indianapolis Food Related Initiative found that there is only one farmers market and national chain and zero cooperative or local farm chains in the 46226-zip code – the area where Indy Fresh Market is located.

Recognizing a need and feeling compelled to take action, McFarland and Williams decided to give back to the community that raised them.

“They are coming back to the community, two African American young men providing basic essential needs to the community,” said Michael Saahir, the store’s first customer who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years. “It is a powerful testimony, and we’re grateful for their dedication.”

Providing for the community does not stop at addressing food insecurity; there also needs to be employment to improve residents’ ability to financially support themselves and their loved ones. Since its opening, Indy Fresh Market has employed more than 40 workers.

“I’m not from the area, but I’m in the area; so, it means a lot working here. Having a grocery store in the community – it has given people opportunities,” said Bobby Williams, a receiver at the market.

The cashiers’ area of the market.

Both McFarland and Williams believe in advancement within the company. “You might be a stocker today, but you could be a manager or supervisor tomorrow. These are our people,” said McFarland.

Williams feels that having access to the market will positively impact the surrounding area. “Food is a necessity for life. If people have food, crime will go down. People looking to feed their families for a quick dollar, now, we have access to healthy foods in the community. I believe crime will go down and everybody can eat,” Williams said.

Kenneth Sullivan Jr., pastor of New Direction Church, recognizing the efforts Williams and McFarland were making to help their community, partnered with the duo during Thanksgiving 2023. By donating $5,000, they were able to give out 50 gift cards to 100 families with the campaign “Get Indy Fresh.” Sullivan, McFarland and Williams were dedicated to ensuring local families had meals for the holidays.

The market is located at 6160 E. 38th St. and is open daily from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. To shop online, apply for a job or learn more, visit indyfreshmarket.com.

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