Merritt Calls for Tax Incentives to Encourage Bodegas, Eliminate "Food Deserts"
(INDIANAPOLIS) - Indianapolis candidate for mayor Jim Merritt wants the city to offer incentives to open bodegas.
Merritt says he wants to see 30 bodegas across Indianapolis. That's 10 times what the city has now. The Republican state senator argues the small corner stores are better suited than big-box supermarkets to address so-called "food deserts," because of the lower overhead.
One in five Indianapolis residents lives more than a mile from a grocery store. Merritt labels it "food apartheid." He says filling those food deserts is an essential step toward reducing crime -- he says if people are hungry, no amount of police manpower or strategy will be enough.
Merritt says the city could encourage the opening of bodegas by offering tax increment financing. That's the property tax break commonly used for big factories, where the expected growth in the tax base is used to finance construction.
Merritt's also proposing partnering with schools to plant vegetable gardens and join the program Food Rescue, which salvages unopened and uneaten food packages from cafeteria trays and gets them to food pantries. He says he'd require those steps for charter schools, which in Indianapolis can be authorized by the mayor's office.
And Merritt says he'd convene a "food security summit" to brainstorm new partnerships to address food access. Merritt's opponent, Mayor Joe Hogsett, has done exactly that the last two years. Merritt maintains his version would be more effective because of the relationships he's built with stakeholders over three decades in the Senate.