The $138 million Hope Credit Union has announced a new lending initiative designed to bring sources of fresh food into parts of New Orleans that currently have none.
The New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative is a partnership between the CU, its sponsoring organization the Hope Enterprise Corporation and and the city of New Orleans, the CU said. It is expected to bring $14 million in forgivable and low inrterest loans to supermarkets and grocery stores either located or soon to locate in underserved parts of the community.
“While this initiative directly addresses the fact that too many New Orleans residents do not have access to the fresh, nutritious foods they need to live healthy lives, it improves outcomes in a number of other areas as well,” said HOPE CEO Bill Bynum. “Communities will be able to reap all the economic development benefits that come along with a local grocery store: the creation of steady jobs at decent wages and serving as a catalyst for complementary retail stores and services nearby.”
The CU cited a study conducted by Tulane University of post-Katrina New Orleans that found nearly 60% of low-income residents surveyed reported that they must drive more than 3 miles to reach a supermarket, but only about half (58%) owned a car. A 2010 study by Social Compact showed only 30 full-service grocers had reopened in the city, revealing substantial unmet demand in the market.
“For too long, our citizens have lacked access to fresh, healthy foods,” said New Orleans Mayor Landrieu. “I am excited to finally make this program a reality, particularly for the quality of life in underserved neighborhoods, and to foster healthier lifestyle habits for all of our citizens.”
By launching the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, the New Orleans will provide $7,000,000 in Disaster-Community Development Block Grant funds, which Hope will match 1:1.. The Food Trust, a national non-profit organization with a track record for administering innovative approaches to expanding access to fresh foods in Pennsylvania and New York will also be part of the program delivery team.
“The Food Trust is thrilled to partner with the City of New Orleans and HOPE to bring more grocery stores and fresh food to New Orleans,” said Yael Lehmann, Executive Director of The Food Trust. “Every child should live in a neighborhood where fresh, healthy food is available and affordable.”