TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WAWV/WTWO) — At the February 2023 city council meeting, Mayor, Duke Bennett, presented his plan for the use of the American Rescue Plan Funds (ARPA). He proposed that $500,000 be used toward food deserts.

“As a foodbank, we work with 90 plus organizations across the seven-county service area. We know that the majority of individuals who come to receive emergency food assistance, either directly from us or from one of those 90 agencies that we work with are at or below the federal poverty limit,” Jennifer Tames Assistant Director of Catholic Charities explained.

Food deserts are geographic areas with little to no options for affordable and healthy foods, especially fresh vegetables and fruits. Food deserts are found mostly in high-poverty areas typically with smaller populations and higher rates of vacant homes. They are identified by family income, vehicle availability, public transportation, as well as the distance to grocery stores.

“You know, I was one of those kinds a long time ago. I have ten brothers and sisters and our dad passed away early, but he wasn’t a great father. My mother didn’t have an education and I have ten brothers and sisters, so you know, we were really dependent on school, so when it would end in summertime, you know it really was just, whatever my mother could provide for us to eat,” Bobby Moore, CEO of Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club said. “You know it might be hanging out at a buddy’s house or in line one week at the government cheese and have all my brothers and sisters with the same last names get a roll of cheese. So, I understand and can really recognize those particular kids and say, ‘this might be their only meal for the day.'”

Food deserts are found by searching low-income, low-access census tracts. In low-access census tracts, 33% or more of residents must travel an inconvenient distance to reach the nearest grocery store. According to the USDA that distance

“When you take a look at overlapping, where are those food deserts versus where are those qualified census tracts, we have a lot of them right around where we are standing (Terre Haute Catholic Charities Food Bank) right now. Up in the avenues here in Terre Haute, there are some overlaps over down by ISU as well. So, I think there is a lot of opportunity to insert some of the funds (ARPA) in these areas where it really makes the most sense and can help the most people,” Tames added.

When talking about the meal program at the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club Moore said that when one child at the club was asked what his favorite part of the day was the child responded, ‘the hot meal was his favorite part because it was the only one, he’d get that day.’

“Those kids that we serve, which are underprivileged and underserved kids, that’ll probably be the only meal that they get that day,” Moore said.

To find out if your neighborhood is in a food desert, check out the USDA interactive map.

If you are interested in helping with food insecurities in the city of Terre Haute and surrounding communities, you can visit the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club website to make a donation or to learn about opportunities to volunteer. You can also visit Terre Haute Catholic Charities online to find out how to get involved as a donor or volunteer through their organization.