In an effort to increase the number of healthy foods in urban areas, New Orleans native and Treme star Wendell Pierce, who's best known for his role in The Wire, has pledged to introduce a chain of Sterling Farms grocery stores to low-income neighborhoods in his hometown. New Orleans is identified as one of the more than 6,000 food deserts, or low-income areas where residents have minimal access to supermarkets.
In December, Pierce and business partner Troy Henry opened a Sterling Express in Baltimore, the first in a convenience-store chain to sell fresh produce and salads at reasonable prices, in addition to selling the usual chips and soda snacks.
“Bringing fresh food into these areas helps create economic growth,” Pierce told the New York Times. “But it also helps people understand that there’s value in eating better. It’s not something that’s only available in a better neighborhood.”
Although many restaurants have reopened in the city devastated by 2005's Hurricane Katrina, grocery stores have not had the same success. Before the storm, there were 30 markets in New Orleans; today, there are 21, most of which have reopened in wealthier areas. Research also shows that nearly 60 percent of low-income residents have to travel more than three miles to reach a supermarket.
Pierce says the New Orleans stores will offer a free shuttle to anyone who spends $50 or more. Sterling Farms also plans to host a monthly New Orleans-style cookout to raise money for the community.
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(Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)