POSTED: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 4:00pm
UPDATED: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 4:04pm
Baton Rouge, La — A new program called the “Healthy Corner Store Initiative” will offer grants to encourage existing neighborhood stores in East Baton Rouge Parish’s food deserts to sell fresh produce and vegetables.
As many as 103,000 East Baton Rouge residents, including up to 25,000 children, are living in food deserts where they have limited access to supermarkets and grocery stores, according to a recent study by Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
The new program’s goal is to transform selected neighborhood corner stores into Healthy Corner Stores – stores that promote the sales of healthy foods through stocking and marketing items such as fresh produce. Target areas of this program are the “food deserts” and areas of limited supermarket access within the zip codes 70802, 70805, and 70807 in the urban core of Baton Rouge.
The new Healthy Corner Store Program will receive funding from the Fresh Beginnings Project that was developed through Mayor-President Kip Holden's Healthy City Initiative, and will be administered by the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority’s Fresh Food Program.
The program will provide grants of up to $20,000, technical assistance and marketing advice to operators of small, existing corner stores to increase shelf space and square footage dedicated to fresh, healthy foods.
The Healthy Corner Store program is modeled after similar efforts that have proven successful in San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Los Angeles. In fact, the NYC Healthy Bodegas Initiative increased healthier food purchases by 78 percent.
The RDA will be accepting applications for grants of up to $20,000 from existing neighborhood stores through April 15, 2013. Interested applicants may contact the Redevelopment Authority (RDA) for a copy of program guidelines and an application at 225-387-5606 or firstname.lastname@example.org . A 10-percent match will be required from awarded applicants.
The grant money can be used to assist with small exterior improvements, such as painting, new doors, and interior fixtures, refrigeration equipment and other needs. In addition, marketing and product handling assistance will be provided to help with the new or expanded product lines that increase the availability of fresh, local produce in the selected stores.
The Healthy Corner Store program is partially funded through the Fresh Beginnings Project, developed through Mayor-President Kip Holden's Healthy City Initiative with a $1 million grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation's Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana Grant Program.
For more information and to see maps of “food deserts” in Baton Rouge created by Dr. Stephanie Broyles and Katy Drazba of Pennington Biomedical Research Center, please visit: http://www.healthybr.com/data/food-access-in-east-baton-rouge-parish.aspx .