POSTED: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 8:30am
UPDATED: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 8:34am
BATON ROUGE, LA — National Food Day is normally observed on October 24 each year to celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. But here in Baton Rouge, the Mayor’s Healthy BR program is extending National Food Day into a full week of activities starting on October18 and running through October 24.
Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden will officially kick off the Food Week festivities at Live After Five on Friday, October 18.
On Saturday, October 19, City Club Executive Chef Eric Arceneaux will lead a fun, healthy cooking demonstration at the Downtown Red Stick Farmers Market beginning at 10 a.m.
On Sunday, October 20, Slow Food Baton Rouge is hosting their first annual “Slow Food Fall Heat” farm-to-table fundraiser to benefit their latest farm-to-school program called “Greauxing Healthy Baton Rouge.” More information is available on their website at slowfoodbr.org.
Some schools around Baton Rouge will be celebrating Food Week with healthy food drives, in partnership with the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. One school is planning a healthy food mural while others are working on school garden projects and integrating food education in their classrooms.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Library will feature fun displays, including healthy cookbooks and food documentaries, at several branches during Healthy BR Food Week.
A free screening of the food documentary A Place at the Table will be held at 6 p.m. on October 22 at the Dalton J. Woods Auditorium in LSU’s Energy Coast and Environment Building. The screening was organized by Healthy BR, Independent Media Network, LSU Campus Life and Slow Food Baton Rouge, and will be followed by a panel discussion as well as a food organization expo. The event will offer an opportunity to get involved in local efforts to increase food access through programs such as Baton Rouge Green’s City Citrus and Scotlandville Mobile Pantry, which is a collaboration of Together Baton Rouge and the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
As part of the Mayor’s Healthy BR Food Week, the Red Stick Mobile Farmers Market is teaming up with the American Culinary Federation of Greater Baton Rouge for Chefs Outreach to the Community Day on October 23 at the weekly Red Stick Mobile Farmers Market stop located at Star Hill Church, 1400 N. Foster Drive. The event will teach Capitol Middle School how to make healthy wraps, smoothies, and even grow their own food. BREC's new mobile recreation, BREC on the Geaux, will provide fitness games, and the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Bookmobile will offer books and documentaries on healthy eating and cooking.
The Food Access Policy Commission will also present their latest findings to the Metro Council on October 23. Later that same evening, the LSU student group Kitchens on the Geaux will host their 5th Annual Oxfam Hunger Banquet at the LSU Student Union Royal Cotillion Ballroom at 7 p.m. Participants are invited to share a special meal together and discuss poverty both locally and globally. Register online until October16 at http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/campuslife/service/kitchens-on-the-geaux/. 
LSU Campus Life will also be holding its annual Homecoming CANapalooza food drive through Tuesday, October 22. Student volunteers will construct a replica of Tiger Stadium out of donated food on the Parade Grounds, which will be on display during the homecoming game on Saturday, October 26.
On October 24, Pennington Biomedical Research Center will have a special nutrition tent at the weekly Red Stick Farmers Market on the Pennington grounds from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m., where shoppers can sign up for a chance to win a farmers market basket. The Mayor will wrap up Healthy BR Food Week with a Love Your Block volunteer service day at the Garden of Champions on Eddie Robbinson Drive from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m.
New data from the USDA shows that one in six Louisiana households struggle with hunger, which is worse than the national average.
A 2012 study by Dr. Stephanie Broyles of Pennington Biomedical Research Center estimates that 23 percent of East Baton Rouge Parish residents live in areas with little to no access to healthy food outlets, proving especially difficult for those with limited access to transportation. To address the problem, the Food Access Policy Commission was created earlier this year to recommend possible solutions.
According to the LA Budget Project, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provided essential nutrition support to one in five Louisianans last year. With Congress debating cuts to SNAP, it’s important that community members, organizations and local officials come together to leverage resources and increase healthy food access.
Healthy BR Food Week aims to highlight the many pioneering local community partners working at the forefront of these issues, including the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative Fresh Beginnings project, which last year received a $1-million grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana’s Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana Grant Program.
Using grant money from Fresh Beginnings, BREADA launched the Red Stick Mobile Farmers Market in North and Old South Baton Rouge; Together Baton Rouge spearheaded the Food Access Policy Commission; the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority developed the Healthy Corner Store Initiative; and Project Fit America and the Evlyn J. Daniel Foundation implemented fitness and nutrition education programs in four elementary schools.
National Food Day is an opportunity to bring communities together to promote healthier eating; reduce hunger; support local, sustainable farming; and support fair working conditions for food and farm workers. Healthy BR Food Week is not just a week-long event, but an opportunity to mobilize the larger community in ongoing efforts towards a more sustainable and healthy Baton Rouge.