Lake County Eats Local brings awareness to food deserts in NWI

Lake County Eats Local brings awareness to food deserts in NWI

If you place your finger on a map of grocery stores within Northwest Indiana, you may find that you cannot touch one within a mile radius. Donna Catalano, community development director at Legacy Foundation, shared how this is considered a food desert.

“Lake County currently has about 27 food deserts, and 14 of those are in Gary, so we decided we’d like to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to those areas," said Catalano.

Legacy Foundation applied for the USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant which they received in September 2018.

“We kicked off Lake County Eats Local the summer of 2019,” Catalano said.

Lake County Eats Local planned to host five to six market locations a season until these events came to a halt during the COVID 19 pandemic.  Legacy Foundation requested to extend the grant because of the 2020 season, which it was given for the 2022 season.

“This is the last season of our grant,” Catalano said. “What we try to do is set up these markets with the intent that whoever we partner with, and the locations of the markets, will continue after the grant ends.”
Vendors at these markets tend to be local farmers as well as local micro business owners who are encouraged to carry on the contributions to the area.

“A farmer’s market is defined as a market with two farmers and produce has to be grown within a 400-mile radius, so we meet both of those criteria at our markets," said Catalano.

Market-goers are also able to shop for ready-to-eat snacks, skincare products, and more homemade goods.

Catalano said that the markets also strive to serve all the public, no matter the level of income.
Lake County Eats Local is holding a market in the parking lot of Israel CME in Gary on Saturday, July 30th.

“They are excited because it’ll be their second market of the season.  They also are unique because they have a community garden,” Catalano said.

On Sunday, July 31st, Lake County Eats Local will be at the already-established Miller Market to support their 10th year.

“We offer technical  assistance and bring our SNAP machine,” Catalano said. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program which used to be food stamps.  All of our markets offer customers the opportunity to use their SNAP cards. Legacy then is reimbursed from SNAP, and we, in turn,  pay the farmers.”

For Northwest Indiana residents looking to explore the market scene, Catalano would love to see more faces.

“We’d love for readers to come out and visit our markets,” Catalano said. “People can come out during their lunch break and take part, grabbing some fresh fruit and veggies.”

To learn more about Lake County Eats Local, check out photos of previous markets, and find a market location nearest to you, visit the Facebook page or

For more information about Legacy Foundation, visit the website