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Farmer opens grocery in Indianapolis food desert

Fresh food in area that is lacking
Posted at 6:31 PM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-09 18:31:11-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A Hancock County farmer's mission to fight food hunger is getting national attention.

Tyson Foods, one of the biggest food companies in the country, is recognizing Jonathan Lawler for his work in addressing food insecurity on the Indianapolis east side.

Lawler opened a grocery near East 10th Street and North Rural in a building that used to house Pogue's Run Grocer. He calls it "Healthy Harvest Market at Brookside."

"As a farmer, it upset me that we have hungry people, especially in our capitol city in Indiana, because we're an agricultural powerhouse," he said. "I know where all the food deserts are in Indianapolis because we work them and I seen that this was available."

Lawler runs Brandywine Creek Farm in Hancock County and sells one third his produce wholesale, another third to affordable access markets and donates the rest. It was his dream to open a grocery store selling his produce in an underserved neighborhood.

Annllexass Vanduyn is one of Lawler's customers and is happy there's a replacement for Pogue's Run Grocer. "It helped my family a lot and I remember when it closed down. I was upset because a lot of the people around here, this is where we came to eat," she said.

"It's always a good thing to have a local market in the neighborhood, especially when you've got fresh produce," said Coelynn Smith, another customer.

Lawler has donated more than two million pounds of produce in Central Indiana over the last three years. Last week, Tyson Foods named him one of its "Meals That Matter Heroes," giving him $100,000 continue his work.

"Having a company like Tyson who sees what we do, a company that feeds the world, literally, seeing what we are doing on the local level and acknowledging it that much that they chose to make me their Meals That Matter Hero, that was a big deal for me. It's going to push me to keep going," said Lawler.

Lawler wants to hire people who live in the neighborhood to work at his grocery store or at one of his two Hancock County farms.