The Louisiana Healthy Communities Coalition has been fighting death and disease by going after the two biggest causes of chronic disease: tobacco and obesity. But the thing about fighting tobacco and obesity is that the fight doesn’t start in a doctor’s office – that’s like shutting the barn door after the horse has fled. By the time you see a doctor, the damage has been done.
No, the fight begins way before that, and in the community, by doing things like making sure people can breathe smoke-free air, that they can get fresh, healthy foods in their neighborhood, or that they can safely cycle to work in a bike lane. So, to help those changes happen, LHCC, in its latest round of mini-grants, is providing communities grants of $1,000 to $3,000 - this time specifically to help people get healthy foods. The application deadline is Dec. 9 and the effort must be some type of policy, systems or environmental change (PSE). That’s so the fix won’t be temporary, but one that will last.
Don’t know what PSE is, or need an example? In the case of food access, some examples would be a) expanding a farmers market; b) starting a farm-to-school program; c) finding a way to provide more fresh foods to food pantries; or d) starting a community gardens. And don’t think projects are limited to those. LHCC is looking for any idea that is sustainable, especially in places or for people who traditionally haven’t been able to get healthy foods. So if your community thinks it’s got a great idea, go to the mini grant page and apply! As I said above, the application deadline is Dec. 9 and it’s coming fast!
It’s also time to look at how LHCC’s mini-grants have been put to work over the last months – months where mini-grant recipients had to deal with a pandemic, social unrest, hurricanes - you name it. LHCC is so proud to partner with people and communities, who in spite of everything, have soldiered on and spearheaded these projects. There are a number of projects we want to highlight, so let’s start in Southeast Louisiana, where many organizations have already sprung into action to address food insecurity.
This past spring, as grocery shelves emptied, Sprout NOLA pivoted their operations to make sure people could get fresh produce. They not only provided 600 vegetable plants to people to start or boost their own home gardens, they also offered COVID-safe plant pick-up at the Press Street Gardens, as well as did home delivery to elderly residents in the Treme-Lafitte neighborhood of New Orleans.
Also in New Orleans, Market Umbrella / Crescent City Farmers Market, in partnership with Top Box foods, stepped up to the challenge of keeping healthy food in reach, with local produce home-delivery when people stopping in-person shopping, especially at the start of the pandemic. They also expanded their SNAP/ food stamp dollar match program, ensuring healthy food reached low-income households; while also supporting local farmers with stipends to grow even more fruits and vegetables.
The Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans literally and figuratively “boosted” the nutrition of 200 low-income cancer survivors throughout the state, by expanding its partnership with Top Box foods to provide home-delivery of fresh produce and Boost, a nutritional meal replacement.
Over in Hammond, downtown became healthier on two fronts. The Farmers Market developed an online market platform, enabling digital payments, pre-orders, and safer customer food curbside pick-ups. These efforts did double-duty good, making sure local, fresh produce didn’t rot in the field, while helping people get much-need healthy food at a scary time. In addition, the Downtown Development District worked with community members to install 18 bike racks at key destinations in the downtown Center. Those included racks at Urban Plaza (the Farmers Market location), Cate Square Park, City Hall, the police station and Hanson Crossing, which is near local restaurants. The group plans to add local art decals to the racks in early 2021.
And speaking of bikes, in Baton Rouge, LHCC helped Front Yard Bikes with its "Pay It Forward" initiative, which trains disadvantaged youth to repair bikes for community members. Not only does Front Yard Bikes promote physical activity – something LHCC is all about – but during this pandemic, with kids at home during the day, and people feeling less comfortable taking public transportation, bikes have provided essential transportation.
So there you have it! Watch for our next blog to see what LHCC has been doing in other parts of the state too!