New Orleans has long held the nation and the world captive with its distinctive menus and chart topping cuisine. Unfortunately, where the city thrives in the restaurant sector — there are over 1,200 restaurants in the metro area— Katrina left us drastically short in the grocery department, stranding many residents with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Encouraging, however, are the many efforts enacted to solve this problem since the storm.Nine years later, groups like Capstone
Community Garden convert blighted lots into arable land. Folks at Hollygrove Market have established a fresh food hub on Olive Street just off of S. Carrollton Ave, and, despite a location’s early closing this year, actor Wendell Pierce still has plans to open Sterling Express convenience stores, businesses designed to bring healthy food options to low income shoppers across the city. You can even receive a whole box full of fresh produce from all over the region with Hollygrove Market’s “What’s in the Box?” program. For $25 a week, you can get fresh fruits, veggies, herbs and an assortment of other produce.
New models for grocery shopping seem as fast spreading as food trucks and new restaurants with San Francisco-based delivering grocer Good Eggs operating now out of the Warehouse District and New Orleans-based food hub Jack and Jake’s preparing to open its first retail location on Oretha C. Haley Blvd later this year.
Also battling the city’s adverse eating conditions, Top Box Foods, a non-profit organization with a goal to provide fresher groceries for all, offers consumers farm-fresh groceries at an average of half the typical grocery store price. Operating on extremely small margins — all of Top Box’s employees are volunteers — the group partners with local churches and community groups to distribute farm fresh produce to anyone who places an order through the company’s website or at a partner/host location. Unlike many other operations, Top Box only delivers once a month but also accepts all forms of payment, including Louisiana SNAP benefits for low income households. Organizations that partner with Top Box, serving as distribution centers throughout the city, also enjoy a five percent return on the value of orders placed through their location.
While Top Box is only one of many organizations working to provide New Orleans with healthier and more affordable groceries, I was taken with their inclusive philosophy and am eager to see how their work affects the communities it serves.
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