Access to Healthy Food, Opportunities to Be Fit
A centerpiece of the city’s efforts is Fit NOLA—a health department-led, multifaceted partnership created with the stated goal of making New Orleans one of the ten fittest US cities by 2018.
Among Fit NOLA’s many priorities is ensuring residents have access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity – in part through a program called the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative.
The Fresh Food Retailer Initiative is the perfect example of a public private partnership,” said DeSalvo. “It is a project that has been bringing grocery stores that have a specified amount of fresh fruits and vegetables on their shelves to communities that are typically food deserts.”
A related program is responsible for helping the iconic Circle Food Store to re-open its doors. Founded in 1939 as the first African American-owned grocery store in New Orleans, the community anchor and staple was so damaged by Katrina that it was forced to close. Owner Dwayne Boudreaux hoped to re-open, but had great difficulty in getting funding—until he received a loan from the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative.
It’s like the Fresh Food Initiative was the glue,” said Boudreaux. “It’s like once they came into existence and said ‘Okay, we’re here, this is what we’re going to pledge,’ then all of the bankers came onboard and the other financial partners came onboard.
Also a part of Fit NOLA, the Edible Schoolyard initiative uses gardens to make healthy foods not just something you see in stores, but a part of New Orleans residents’ everyday lives—particularly for kids. A renewed focus on schools promoting academic achievement and good health offers new gardens and cooking classrooms, as well as state-of-the-art kitchens and new physical activity programs in schools.