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Bodega buses rolling into Indy food deserts

Rolling food pantries serve during pandemic
Posted at 12:01 AM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 00:01:53-05

INDIANAPOLIS — On the near northwest side there is a new creative solution to help bring fresh produce and grocery options to one of Indy's largest food deserts.

"This is the Near Northwest Faith Partners Mobile Bodega," said Tyreese Bowman. Inside a 40-foot retired school bus is not a load of students, but instead, a load of food. Pastor Bowman is part of a team of people who, during the pandemic see their community struggling to get food and groceries.

"We brainstormed with a few of our board members and said hey, what happens COVID surges and shuts down and there no access to food and kids are stuck a t home and our residents and seniors aren't able to get out?" said Bowman.

Right now the two yellow buses serve as rolling food pantries, driving into the Near Northwest and Riverside neighborhoods dropping food off, all for free. But the service itself is not without costs. The Near Northwest Faith Partners cover the cost of fuel, maintenance, and the produce; and donations from community partners like Security National Mortgage Company literally help the wheels on this bus go round.

"It's hard to do everything yourself. Couples are moving here from out of state because of COVID, they lost their job, moved to Indy. Now they're trying to figure out how to get food on the table," said Martha Dutenhoefer of National Security Mortgage Company.

After a soft launch last week, Bowman says the plan is to eventually hire a full team of staff to operate both buses while feeding their community that is craving for food options.

"These buses are starting in Riverside and Northwest but we're looking at servicing the entire city and potentially state as well," Bowman said.

Before purchasing the tworetired school buses, the group was feeding 1,500 Indianapolis families each week while using mini vans and smaller buses. After soft launching with the bigger buses last week, they were able to feed 300 families in a single day.Eventually bodega buses will serve as a rolling store with competitive prices and direct delivery.

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