New Orleans Shoppers Need Better Access to Fresh, Healthy Food: Study

Post-Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has significantly less supermarkets and less options to buy fresh food, according to a report released yesterday by The New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee.

Entitled "Building Healthy Communities: Expanding Access to Fresh Food Retail," the report explores the problem of food access in New Orleans and Louisiana, and presents 10 recommendations to address the issue.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had 38 full-service supermarkets, which averaged about 12,000 residents per store. Today, 18 supermarkets service about 18,000 residents per store, according to the report. Nationally there is an average of 8,800 residents per supermarket.

"Food Policy Advisory Committee members met a number of times over the past year to determine the main barriers to fresh food access and came up with concrete solutions specific to our region," said Natalie Jayroe, president and c.e.o. of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana and co-chair of the committee, in a statement. "Our recommendations focus on practical actions that can be accomplished and will have a tremendous impact on residents."

The committee's 10 recommendations have already received the support of the New Orleans City Council. Council president Arnie Fielkow has convened a task force of committee members and city officials who are developing strategies for implementation of the recommendations.

Specific recommendations include providing tax incentives that encourage retailers to sell fresh food, launching a grocery shuttle service to help residents without cars get to full-service grocery stores, expanding federal nutrition programs in the state that enable residents to purchase more locally grown produce, and developing a state financing program to provide grants and loans to encourage development of supermarkets, grocers, and farmers markets in underserved areas.

The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based group that worked in Pennsylvania to bring more supermarkets into neighborhoods that lack access to affordable, nutritious food, worked with the Food Policy Advisory Committee in New Orleans to craft the recommendations.
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