Indy Healthy Food Access Challenge

Access to healthy and affordable food is a pressing issue for over 300,000 residents in Marion County. Indianapolis is ranked the worst in the nation for food deserts, and the closing of the Double 8 grocery stores in 2015 [and now Marsh in 2017] only heightened awareness of what was an existing issue.

Our initial 2017 challenge will focus on this topic, asking: How might Indianapolis residents better access healthy and affordable food?

Help us co-create solutions as we move through a four-month innovation process:

  • INQUIRE (February): Understanding the problem
  • IDEATE (March): Brainstorming ideas
  • INVESTIGATE (April): Turning ideas into solutions WITH doers
  • IMPACT (May): Preparing for implementation

You can participate online and/or through meet-ups, as detailed on each of the tabs. And…don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date throughout the challenge. Questions? Comments? Contact Stephanie Fernhaber at

You can also listen to our discussion of the Indy Healthy Food Access Challenge on the WFYI No Limits Show and the Wit, Wisdom & Food podcast.

Read more about the challenge goals and champions!

The INQUIRE phase is closed.

Our goal in the INQUIRE phase was to gain a shared understanding of the problem of accessibility to healthy and affordable food in Indianapolis. We did this by listening and gathering insights to the following four prompts: (1) Share your story, (2) Experience it, (3) Existing research, and (4) Local initiatives. View all of the insights below!

At the end of the month, we analyzed the insights and, as a community, decided which food access issues to focus on as we move forward in the challenge. A recap of the INQUIRE process can be found here.

The IDEATE phase is closed.

During the IDEATE phase, our goal was to collectively brainstorm solutions…to the prioritized issues identified in the INQUIRE phase! These four issues included (1) urban agriculture, (2) food & nutrition education, (3) transportation and (4) alternative retail models. We rose to the challenge and came up with 271 ideas (view the ideas below). For a full recap of the IDEATE phase, click here.

The next step? Creating a “idea map” that will be used to help inspire action as we move into the INVESTIGATE phase.

The INVESTIGATE phase is closed.

The goal of the INVESTIGATE phase was to connect high-potential ideas with “do-ers.” Why? Because ideas don’t have impact on their own! Do-ers might be existing non-profit or for-profit organizations, faith-based ministries, students, entrepreneurs or anyone else that is interested in making impact happen.

On April 21st, we held a full day Make-a-thon. Our starting point centered on the Idea Maps, which categorized each and every idea (because every voice matters). While only ideas connected to do-ers were the focus of the Make-a-thon, this is certainly a great database for the community to continue to draw on!

With the help of the Collabo Creative team, we prototyped solutions and gathered feedback (and then did it again, and again). Business models were developed in the afternoon under the expertise of Carl Zuhl with DoTankDo. The day ended with 10 pitches, and many other solutions discussed throughout!

And, of course, we enjoyed delicious food from and Kheprw Institute‘s Ms. Paulette. Thanks to all who were able to participate!

While our make-a-thon was going, a group of 60 fifth graders were having a make-a-thon of their own! This group of students from Park Tudor have participating throughout the entire challenge, and share their pitches HERE.

The IMPACT phase is now open!

Almost done! The goal of the IMPACT phase is to further prepare the “do-ers” for implementation. While our process may be ending, the impact is just starting.

Step 1: Please provide feedback on the solutions below – your perspective and insight matters!

Step 2: We will celebrate the collective innovative power of the Indianapolis crowd at our concluding Solutions Showcase on Friday, May 19th! This is an opportunity to provide additional feedback for the do-ers, and to connect do-ers with mentors, support and other resources that they might need.

Thanks to Mercy Road Church, we will be providing $10,000 in “Do Something Grants!!!!” These micro-grants are designed to help spur action and support our do-ers . Download the application HERE!

Note: If you are looking for larger sources of funding once you have a sustainable business model, we encourage you to check out the Healthy Food Financing Programs, IU Health Healthy Food Access Grant, Faith and Action project, Build Fund, Conservation Fund: Transporting Healthy Food, and the various local investors for starters.

View All Solutions

Thanks to our challenge sponsors:

Contributions So Far


  • Connector.

    Share Your Story

    What has been your experience with food accessibility? We want to hear about your success stories, improvised solutions as well as the major barriers.

  • Connector.

    Experience it

    Sometimes you can gain new insights through experience. We encourage you to drive through the east side of Indianapolis and stop by the food retail options that do exist. What do you observe? What do you hear? What do you feel?

  • Connector.

    Interview someone

    Do you know someone who has been impacted by this social issue? Or, do you know someone who is very knowledgeable about this industry? Interview them to find out their success stories, improvised solutions as well as the major barriers.

  • Connector.

    Local Initiatives

    Help us create a database of existing initiatives throughout Indianapolis that are targeted at addressing food access issues!