Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Eating Well in the Neighborhood

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2008 at 5:43 PM

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Knowing what’s good for you to eat is easy, but finding it in New Orleans can be difficult. Sure, people have plenty of misconceptions about food — potato chips really aren’t vegetables — but most folks know that fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy choices. The problem in New Orleans is access to fresh produce. According to Tulane University, nearly 60 percent of New Orleans residents must drive over three miles to reach a supermarket and there is only one supermarket per 18,500 residents; the national average is one per 8,800.

As we pointed out last October, programs like “Steps to a Healthier New Orleans” are now more focused on environmental and public-policy changes than public education. Last week, the Food Policy Advisory Committee — made up of numerous community partners including grocery store owners, city agencies, charity organizations and health organizations — brought a list of recommendations to the City Council. Although the committee introduced the list with a statement “that all our citizens deserve equal access to fresh and nutritious food,” the following recommended actions took on a decidedly economic tone such as providing grants and loans for new businesses, reducing regulatory barriers for those that sell fresh food and creating tax incentives to encourage the sale of fresh food.

Erin Baker, assistant director of the Tulane’s Prevention Research Center, presented the committee’s recommendations and she is encouraged by the Council’s reaction. First, the Council passed a resolution supporting the recommendations and it approved the creation of a task force that includes members of the food policy committee and city agencies that will develop implementation strategies for the recommendations as well as identifying future partners from within state government.

Baker realizes that this is just a resolution at this point, but she says that the first meeting of the task force is supposed to take place this week. Another good sign that the recommendations might become part of the city’s public policy was that Council President Arnie Fielkow remarked that the tax incentives and loan programs would be something “they would be interested in doing for all businesses (not just those in fresh food retail). Additionally, considering that part of Governor Jindal’s inaugural address yesterday, discussed eliminating “regulations and burdensome taxes,” Baker thinks the state will see the economic benefit of making the recommendations a reality.

Stay tuned to see if food for thought progresses to food for health and profit.

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