The meals deserts of Indianapolis have new oases with the Neighborhood Meals Field Venture

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A free grocery box at IPS School 56 which is part of the Community Food Box project.

The hungry in Indianapolis have a new hero to thank.

Sierra Nuckols is not wearing a cloak, but she smiles broadly and pales in comparison to her heart.

The 20-year-old junior at Hanover College started the Community Food Box Project and posted the first of her hopes to be multiple free grocery boxes across Indianapolis to help those stuck in the city’s food deserts.

According to the project’s Facebook page, the goal is to provide temporary, immediate relief “until the city and other stakeholders invest in the urgent needs of people with food insecurity.”

“The idea is to clear food deserts in the Indianapolis area. Hopefully, as more (boxes) pop up in town, the conversation will get bigger,” Nuckols said.

The path to the project had a few twists and turns for Nuckols.

She was on a mission after returning from a trip to South Africa as part of the Desmond Tutu Youth Fellowship at Butler University. The empowerment program was their inspiration as each person was encouraged to implement an alternative and sustainable program of access to food.

Nuckols was ready to start a municipal gardening project to provide fresh groceries until she came across an article in the Huffington Post about a free pantry movement in Arkansas.

Sierra Nuckols, Junior at Hanover College, is the founder of the Community Food Box Project.

She knew exactly what she wanted to do, but how? A Facebook comment on the story provided the answer: old newspaper distributors.

“When I saw it on Facebook, I just changed my direction. I knew this was a way to get to the bottom of the problem,” said Nuckols.

She called Nuvo and gave them a brochure about their idea. Their yield was five boxes. Groundwork Indy was her next accomplice picking up the boxes, storage, paint, and workshop space.

The result culminated in its first box installation at IPS School 56 on Wednesday. The school’s help on the north side does not stop with the provision of the location. School 56 also helps with food supplies.

Two additional locations are to be installed at the Rockary Faith Missionary Baptist Church, 10302 E. 38th St., and the Martin Luther King Community Center, 40 W. 40th St..

And if that wasn’t enough, Nuckols has seven more in the works.

“I’m just happy that some families can get food. That’s the most important part for me,” said Nuckols. “I think people will start to get the bigger picture.”

Follow IndyStar digital producer Chris Sims on Twitter: @ChrisFSims.

How to help

  • If you would like a Community Food Box in your organization, inquiries can be made through the project’s Facebook page.
  • If you are the one who wants to donate, you can donate to any Community Food Box.

Donation Policy

Items to be donated:

  • Non perishable foods.
  • Canned food.
  • Hygiene products.
  • Diapers.
  • Ready-to-eat foods.
  • Ramen noodles.
  • School supplies (unsharpened pens, colored pencils, notebooks).

Do not donate these items:

  • Sharp objects.
  • Perishable foods.
  • Chemicals.
  • Previously worn clothing.
  • Alcohol.