Amid an enormous crowd of people gathered to celebrate the 8-year post Katrina reopening of the famous Circle Grocery in the 7th Ward, owner Dwayne Boudreaux, dressed in a bright yellow suit, asked, “Who would ever think that some crazy folks down in New Orleans would come out and be so excited about the opening of a grocery store?”
Lots of us, that’s who. In a city of approximately 369 thousand people, there are now just about 25 full service grocery stores, with several opening in recent years. If you do the math, that means nearly 15,000 people served per store; this is practically double the national average.
It’s ironic that a city so renown for it’s fine culinary traditions (think Cafe Du Monde beignets and chicory coffee, Creole and Cajun specialties, and that NOLA is home to well-publicized chefs like Emeril Lagasse and John Besh) also is one of the worst food deserts in the U.S. At a time when 1 of every 5 people nationwide say they struggle to afford food (and this doesn’t necessarily mean healthy fresh food), it’s again become a priority in many communities to create ways to better feed themselves. Various efforts throughout the Big Easy are now focused on this:
Hollygrove Market and Farm – this unique combination of community garden and market lives uptown off Carrollton Ave., one of the most traveled thoroughfares in the city. In addition to providing plots for people to grow their own gardens, staff collects fresh produce from various farms and brings it to the Hollygrove market for sale to the public.
Crescent City Farmers Market -is run by marketumbrella.org, a non-profit organization founded in 1995 as a part of the Twomey Center for Peace Through Justice at Loyola University New Orleans. The group hosts 3 weekly farm/fish markets in various locations throughout the city.
Grow Dat Youth Farm – is a farming youth training program that uses agriculture to inspire people to undertake personal, social and environmental change in their own communities. The farm produces healthy food for sale to local residents.
and several other in-progress projects:
HECK of a Neighborhood Grocery – (short for: The Health Education Center, Organic Farm And Neighborhood Grocery) is a vision for a fresh, affordable and healthy food grocery store in Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. The founders plan to establish a farm that would help to supply the store.
Develop Abundance – a planned aquaponic farm (raising fish to provide nutrients to grow various leafy greens) in the Lower Ninth Ward.
and our own Growing Local NOLA – an urban food and farm center located in Central City. The facility has two pieces – one a public campus for farmer training and other educational classes like farm to table health supportive cooking, activities such as yoga in the garden, and areas for neighbors to grow their own food; and a second, separate area, for a full commercial hydroponic and aquaponic farm that will grow products for sale to businesses and the public.
The reopening of Circle Food Store marks an important milestone in the rebuilding of New Orleans, and also shines a light on other meaningful projects in the City.