Lots of people start off a new year with a resolution to eat healthier. We’re no different, only LHCC is helping the whole state do that by putting our money where our mouths are by awarding more than $34,000 to 14 grantees across the state, all of whom are working to improve community food systems so that we can all eat healthier.
Before the Food Hits Our Mouths
So, what exactly do we mean by “food system?” Well, as we all know, food is pretty much the most basic element when it comes to health, which is why people say “You are what you eat.” But unlike in the past, most of us now eat foods produced in faraway places and go through processes that have changed our diet a great deal - and generally not for the better. For example: Agricultural policies and subsidies don’t necessarily support healthy foods (American Journal of Preventive Medicine “Agricultural Subsidies and the American Obesity Epidemic”). We know food scientists engineer foods to be addictive (60 Minutes “The Flavorists”). And marketers influence our purchase way before we ever put anything in our mouth. (NPR “Scientists Are Building A Case For How Food Ads Make Us Overeat”). Its factors like these that have contributed to our high obesity rates way more than individual decisions.
And these are all examples of food systems issues. Add in issues of food deserts, stressed and low-income populations, cultural customs (like eating boudin!), etc. and the result is that Louisiana has one of the highest obesity rates in the country, which translates into high rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. - and ultimately more death. Quite simply, we all need to understand our food systems better, eat more fruits and vegetables, and make sure those systems get produce to people who don’t it nearby, or can’t afford those fruits and veggies.
And that’s why LHCC decided to fund food systems in this latest round of mini-grants. We are directing money to create “policy, systems and environmental” or “PSE” change because those are the types of changes that have been proven to make real, sustainable improvements. Think of the old saying “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Need an example? A policy or “P” change is a workplace stocking fresh fruit in its vending machines. A systems or “S” change is when we help farmers markets get the technology they need to accept online orders or accepting SNAP benefits/ food stamps. And an environmental or “E” change results is a community planting gardens. People eating healthy means less illness and misery, as well as lower costs – something people often forget. When people get sick, it costs us all in lost productivity, higher private insurance premiums and in taxes.
And now, without further ado, here are the 2021 first round LHCC mini-grant awardees!
South Louisiana Awardees
- Market Umbrella, representing New Orleans area farmers market and the Crescent City Farmers Market, is boosting their SNAP/ food stamp program through improved marketing so more people can buy local, healthy produce.
- Healthy Community Services and SPROUT NOLA are teaming up to teach residents from two New Orleans neighborhoods how to garden and prepare traditional New Orleans foods in healthy ways.
- West St. John High School in Edgard, LA is gardening for healthy ‘RAMS’ – the school’s mascot. Students will get a change to grow and eat vegetables they grow on their own.
- St. Francis Vegetable Garden is growing in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Community members will plant 90 fruit trees in public spaces across both parishes.
- Natchitoches Farmers Market is re-vamping their Berry Patch to provide low-income families with fresh fruit.
- Washington Parish 4-H Youth Development Group is growing a healthier Franklinton in Washington Parish with an outdoor gardening learning hub for community members of all ages.
- The Hammond Downtown Development District will transform a vacant, overgrown lot to a food hub and green space that people can enjoy together in its downtown.
- Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Covington is providing healthier food options to cancer patients in survivors throughout St. Tammany, Washington, and Tangipahoa parishes.
- United Way of Iberia helping construct a series of small food pantries across Iberia parish, accomplishing the mission of healthy food reaching people where they live!
Central & North Louisiana Awardees
- Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance and the Alexandria Farmers Market will break down how to shop at the farmers market for SNAP/ food stamps shoppers with a step-by-step video and signage.
- First Baptist Outreach Ministries in Sicily Island will repurpose an unused lot to grow fresh produce to create 10th and Peck Produce Outlet!
- St. Rest Baptist Church plans to grow a garden and community connections in Shreveport.
- The Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana in Monroe will help families enjoy interactive activities in a garden built and cultivated as a community.