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New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative

Storm damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 forced many New Orleans healthy food retailers to close their doors – further exacerbating resident’s struggles to access healthy food. Six-years after Hurricane Katrina, the City of New Orleans launched the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI) to increase healthy food access in underserved areas. This program provides direct financial assistance to retail businesses by awarding forgivable and/or low-interest loans to supermarkets and other fresh food retailers. The City has partnered with The Food Trust and HOPE Enterprise Corporation (HOPE), a community-development financial institution and Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) grantee, to implement the program. The program was seeded with $7 million of federal Disaster Community Development Block Grant funds that have already leveraged millions in additional public and private funding for grocery projects.

As of early 2015, FFRI helped to finance three large-scale projects that will have a significant impact on New Orleans in terms of fresh food access, job creation, and community revitalization: Circle Food Store, ReFresh/Whole Foods, and Jack and Jake’s, scheduled to open in the Fall 2015. 

Background and Advocacy

In 2007, healthy food stakeholders presented information to the New Orleans City Council about how limited access plagued communities post-Katrina. The Council voted unanimously to convene the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee to directly address this issue and generate a list of recommendations to improve access to healthy food in the city. The multi-sector group met over the course of a year and developed recommendations to support grocery stores in underserved areas throughout the city.

In response to the recommendations of the Food Policy Advisory Committee, the City of New Orleans prioritized healthy food retailing in the strategic rebuilding of the city, setting the stage for the creation of the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI)

For more background, read the full list of Food Policy Advisory Committee recommendations that led to the creation of the FFRI program: Building Healthy Communities: Expanding Access to Fresh Food Retail.

For more information on how to advocate for and create a state or local healthy food financing Initiative: The Healthy Food Financing Handbook: From Advocacy to Implementation.

Policy Efforts to Watch: Louisiana Healthy Food Retail Act

Concurrent with the implementation of the FFRI, statewide advocacy efforts were also underway which culminated in Governor Bobby Jindal signing the Healthy Food Retail Act into law on August 15, 2009. The legislation created the structure for a financing program that would provide grants and loans to supermarkets, farmers' markets and food retail providers to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved communities across the state of Louisiana; however no funding has been appropriated for the program.  

Advocates of the Healthy Food Retail Act, including Together Louisiana, Market Umbrella, Tulane University’s Prevention Research Center and The Food Trust, among others, have been working together to get funding allocated for the program.

  • Check out this video from Together Louisiana 2015 Statewide Assembly where residents, community leaders and government officials speak to the importance of and support for the Healthy Food Retail Act.
Mid South Healthy Food Initiative 
Administered by Hope Enterprise Corporation in partnership with The Food Trust, the Mid South Healthy Food Financing Initiative is a regional healthy food financing program that offers offers flexible financing for new store development and renovations, as well as training with retailers to promote healthier choices projects across three states in the Mid South region. The initiative started in New Orleans but has grown to support grocery projects in urban areas across Mississippi, Louisiana and the greater Memphis area. The program was developed through the support of a $3 million initial seed from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, which was leveraged further by other funding including the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative. For more information about the program, visit the program website here.

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