Wendell Pierce Opens Grocery Stores in NOLA Food Deserts

Actor Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme) has opened a small chain of grocery and convenience stores in his native New Orleans to help eliminate food deserts.

Food deserts – lack of access to grocery stores selling affordable, fresh foods – are critical issues in impoverished communities, including many New Orleans neighborhoods. His chain, Sterling Farms, offers affordable and nutritious foods, as well as a free shuttle to anyone who spends $50 or more, so they need not walk or take the bus with heavy bags. The stores are located in areas with single mothers, children and the elderly, the three biggest demographics affected by food deserts. Pierce explained to NBC News

“The most important thing to me is creating a relationship with the community; creating an economic engine as an opportunity for them just to have access to a decent grocery store,”

Before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005,  there were 30 grocery stores in New Orleans; today, there are 21. Most that have reopened are in wealthier neighborhoods: a Tulane University survey in 2007, the latest data available, found that nearly 60 percent of low-income residents had to travel more than three miles to reach a supermarket, though only 58 percent owned a car. In the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas, the only stores within walking distance are dollar stores, which sell staples like eggs, milk and meat, but few fresh fruits and vegetables.

Food deserts are a serious issue. Hopefully, more people will take Pierce’s lead, and can help eliminate a major problem. What do you think, LivLunatics? Does Sterling Farms make you more optimistic? What are some other ways we can eliminate food deserts?

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