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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Youth hold community conversation around closing of Double 8 Foods

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The closing of Double 8 Foods in the Indianapolis community has dug a bigger hole for residents who depended on the grocer to supply food, considering similar grocers aren’t within walking distance. Recently youth in the effected community decided to take matters into their own hands by holding a forum titled “Youth-Led Conversation on Double 8” at the Kheprw Institute (KI), an inter-generational organization that works to empower youth through mentorship, leadership and critical thinking.

Four interns of the institute shared their opinions of the store’s closing and provided solutions on how residents can gain access to nutritious foods. Three of the interns involved got a chance to speak with the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper about their community conversation.

“On our street we see a lot of elderly and disabled people in need of food. It (Double 8) may not have been the cleanest or the best store, but for some people it was their Trader Joe’s and their Whole Foods,” said Asli Mwaafrika, 13.

During the discussion, where over 60 people attended, several commented on Double 8’s cleanliness.

“People would say it smelled bad and that the floors were dirty,” said 15-year-old Chinyelu Mwaafrika.“My answer to that is, they were still used in the community as a resource and now they’re gone.”

Though the event was heavily attended, not everyone expressed anger about the closing of the local grocer. Chinyelu said some attendees expressed joy once they heard the news because of the store’s physical condition.

The interns became aware of the closing after one of the institute’s program director, Paulette Fair, went to grab food for dinner, but then noticed “closed” signs plastered on the doors. Fair was then forced to drive to another grocer to obtain cooking ingredients.

“One of the solutions we proposed was community gardening because with the closing of Double 8, many gardens can now have light shined upon them. We also talked about searching for private investors to build health food stores in the area to replace Double 8,” mentioned Asli.

Given the youth were hosts of the event, they were presented with topics by the audience traditionally not explored by their age group.

“People asked us about politics, government and a lot of technical things such as if we had an action plan created,” laughed Chinyelu. “Although we were holding the discussion, I still had to remind them of my age.”

Rasul Palmer,18, believes it was a good experience participating in a discussion with adults about issues that impact all ages.

On the event’s Facebook page, several attendees expressed their thoughts on the forum once the event concluded. Local resident Gaynelle Rodrigues said the participating youth gave her hope for the future.

“The energy in the room was so positive maybe it should have closed a long time ago. We need to take this opportunity to take back our community. Let’s have some more open forum discussions so we can take control of the situation before someone sticks us with a real mess. I look forward to the next meaningful discussions,” she said.

In the past, KI youth have held forums on the state of Ferguson, Mo. and other community issues.

Because the first conversation on Double 8 was well received, the youth will hold several more conversations centered on the store’s closing. The next discussion will take place at 3 p.m. on Aug. 9 at KI, 3549 Boulevard Place where the youth will speak about how race and poverty are intimately connected to people’s ability to access and buy food. Similar events will follow.

The youth also handed out flyers about the temporary shuttle services provided by community leaders to help residents access food outside of their areas.

“Its nice to know there are people out there that care enough to listen to what we have to say,” mentioned Chinyelu. “I’ve seen many youth’s voices silenced because people say ‘they’re young, they’re unexperienced and don’t know anything.’ It’s nice to know there are adults that have been through so much more than us who think young people have voices of value.”

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