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Indianapolis Skyline and White River
Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability

Indy Food Access Research

Urban food deserts are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a low-income census tract (defined as having a poverty rate greater than or equal to 20% or a median family income less than or equal to 80% of the area’s median family income) where at least 500 people or 33% of the census tract’s population reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.

In 2014, the city of Indianapolis was ranked the worst food desert in the nation according to Walk Score. In 2018, SAVI estimated that 200,000 Indianapolis residents or 71% of Marion County census tracts have low food access (purple areas on the map). There are many non-profit organizations striving to improve food insecurity in Indianapolis such as Flanner House, Kheprw Institute, Mother Love's Garden, Lawrence Community Gardens, and Indy Urban Acres, among others. Each organization has a unique organizational structure and approach to solving this issue in Indianapolis.

The Indy Food Access research project at Butler University explores how the context, perspectives, goals, and characteristics of local organizations and their leadership structure influences approaches to combating food insecurity and impacts to solving challenges of food availability, access, and sovereignty. Students interested in assisting with this research project should explore the Department of Sociology & Criminology requirements for internships and contact Dr. Katherine Novak to express interest in the project.

Faculty Leadership

Professor Kate Novak, Department of Sociology

Student Interns


Jarrod Koester, History & Sociology '20

DaCoda Love, Sociology '20


Sarah Diviney, Sociology & Criminology '19

Abby Hogan, Sociology & Criminology '19

Caroline Klenck, Sociology & Criminology, ‘19

Emma Ryan, Sociology & Criminology, ‘18

Paige Tuten, Sociology with a Specialization in Social Work ‘18