Who says you can’t get folks to eat their veggies?
Sure, it may seem like a task at times, with our state’s obesity rates and high blood pressure, high cholesterol numbers soaring.
But we saw no evidence of anti-veg eaters on Wednesday as we gathered under the white tents that housed northern Baton Rouge’s Red Stick Mobile Farmers Market. Instead, we saw a steady stream of mothers, fathers, neighbors, all with bags in hand, crowding the new neighborhood fresh food stand, anxious to scoop up leafy greens and bright berries for their families.
“My children love strawberries,” said Joyce Johnson, clutching a bag filled with the vibrant red
berries she intended to share. She also snagged blueberries, mustard greens and kale. “I’m trying to change my diet. But the nearest Winn Dixie is about 4 miles from me. This is right here, so close to me. I don’t have to travel so far to get what I need.”
And that’s the point, said Lisa Gray, community outreach manager for the Red Stick Mobile Farmers Market program, made possible by Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant winner Fresh Beginnings (awarded $1 million by our Foundation in 2012). This week’s mobile market opening was the first in what will become a weekly offering of farm fresh vegetables, fruits, and, in time, meats and dairy products, too.
“Many people living in this area don’t even drive or have a car,” Gray said. “So it’s hard to go a half-mile for fresh groceries, let alone 4 or 5 miles.”
Plus, Gray points out, just because produce is purchased from a nearby grocer doesn’t mean the food is coming from one of our local farmers, which is a key element for the Fresh Beginnings program — to eat fresh foods, grown by local farmers.
“At a grocery store, you can’t guarantee that food came from our farmers,” Gray said. “Plus, you can’t get food any fresher than this. This food was picked yesterday. Now that’s fresh. I know because we went to some of these farms ourselves and picked up the food!”
Other farmers delivered their produce directly to Red Stick workers. All produce is sold on consignment.
That’s enough for customer Peron McCastle, who said he considers it a priority to support the farmers in his own community.
“It’s very important to me to buy Louisiana products,” said McCastle, holding bags loaded down with turnips, cabbage and greens. “Supporting the local farmers? I like that.”
And don’t think farm fresh means “expensive.” The point is to make the produce not just accessible, but affordable. Indeed, we even did a bit of shopping… And for just $10, we walked away with a haul that included green onions, strawberries, blueberries, zucchini, green peppers and a cucumber!
For now, the mobile market will be held every Wednesday in the parking lot of the Scotlandville Library (9 a.m. — 11 a.m.) and in front of Star Hill Church (1 p.m. — 3 p.m.). But Gray says they are hoping to expand, moving the mobile market (which is literally a converted truck hauling food and a pop-up farm stand) other days of the week as soon as they find more locations to host the pop-up food truck.
As dozens turned out for the mobile market’s first showing, Gray marveled at the small crowd.
“It’s awesome,” she said, looking on at customers bustling from table to table. “We haven’t even done that much advertising yet. It’s been through local churches and community centers, the library, and we have a local radio
talk show. But mostly, we’re counting on word of mouth — for one neighbor to tell another neighbor and so on.”
Want more inside scoop? Look for recipes scattered along the tables, with delectable ways to use the day’s fresh produce. This week’s highlight was a strawberry and spinach salad recipe (2 bunches of spinach tossed with 4 cups of sliced strawberries, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds). Sounds berry good to us!
By Tina Dirmann
staff writer for BCBSLA Founation
Jena’s Band of Choctaw Indians used the Easter holiday as a chance to celebrate family fun, tradition and good health! More than 50 kids and their families turned out last Saturday (March 16) for the Children’s Wellness Easter Egg Hunt. And while the kids had a blast participating in the timeless tradition of hunting hidden multi-color egg treats, there was also a bigger message conveyed throughout the day: Make your family’s health a priority!
The day included dental screenings and fluoride treatments, and body mass index checks. Jena Health Department’s Holly VanHoozen was on hand to advise anyone with a health need, including how to find a doctor and make appointments for follow up care.
Within the community, health care often suffers due to a lack of health education — and a lack of trust in the healthcare system, according to Jena Choctaw Tribal Leader Cheryl Smith. She’s hoping events like this one will help stem the tide of rising blood pressure rates, diabetes and premature deaths among within the Choctaw family.
But there’s already good news to report! According to an article in the United South and Eastern Tribes Newsletter, written by Catherine Hollister, dental support center director for the area’s tribal community, efforts to promote good health “seem to be working.”
“East year, more participants report they have received regular preventive health services,” the article said. “Also, the ever-increasing number of participants year after year demonstrates that tribal members appreciate the health services and the strong sense of community created by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians.”
Even the kiddies had wellness lessons tucked into their Easter baskets, which event organizers filled with healthy snacks and toys that encourage outdoor play (ie, exercise!).
The event was made possible through our Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant program, which awarded $1 million to support the community’s Live Lively LaSalle wellness program (a collaboration of 10 partners from the healthcare arena, non-profits and government in the LaSalle region). The Easter egg hunt is part of the project’s pledge to match our foundation’s funding with another $1 million in dollars and services, including community outreach and wellness education.
Challenge Grant Q&A: Chip Boyles talks of tackling Baton Rouge food deserts with new Healthy Corner Store Food Initiative
By Tina Dirmann
BCBSLA Foundation staff writer
It’s funny, the little things in life we take for granted. Say, for example, the simple task of strolling into a grocery store to pick up a few bananas, or a head of broccoli for tonight’s dinner.
But what if the grocery store is more than a mile away. How about 10? And what if you don’t have a car. Maybe you can take a bus, if you live near a bus stop. Or maybe you can take a taxi, if you’re lucky enough to afford that luxury.
But likely, you pop into one of those ubiquitous corner markets, the kind stocked-up with canned sodas and bags of chips, and not so much on fresh fruits-n-veggies. And pretty soon, you’re popping in so often, because it’s cheap and easy, that the little convenience store down the road is your main grocery.
What happens to your diet? Nothing good…
“A corner store simply does not count as a grocery store,” explains Chip Boyles, vice president of administration for the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority. “And yet, here in the Baton Rouge area, many corner markets are serving as the main store for too many people. And we’ve got to change that.”
Today, Boyles is overseeing the new Healthy Corner Store Initiative, offering “make over” grants (up to $20,000 each) to four neighborhood stores in East Baton Rouge Parish. The goal is to help the markets redesign and refocus, to offer fresh produce alongside their normal pre-packaged fare.
The Healthy Corner Store Initiative is yet another exciting program developed by one of our Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant partners, Fresh Beginnings (awarded $1 million from the foundation last fall). Fresh Beginnings is a collaborative wellness program with East Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden’s Healthy City Initiative.
Below, check out our chat with Boyles about corner markets, the new initiative, and how offering apples alongside racks of Ramen Noodles just might make all the difference in the health and well being of some East Baton Rouge residents.
Q: Are full service grocery stores really that hard to come by in some Baton Rouge areas?
A: Yes, that’s true. In north and south Baton Rouge regions, there are as many as 103,000 residents living in food deserts (meaning there is no full service grocery store within a mile). And approximately 25,000 of those are children.
Challenge Grant in the news: EBR food deserts program makes headway, with help from Challenge Grant (The Advocate)
East Baton Rouge tackles area food deserts, with a little help ($1 million dollars, actually) from our very own Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant program!
Catch the full story in The Advocate
Healthy Living Club unites 20 community organizations throughout Lafayette to promote healthier life styles
Check out TheAdvertister.com’s great story on the official kick-off of Lafayette’s new Healthy Living Club, a Challenge Grant partner uniting 20 community organizations to promote healthy living programs throughout the region (excerpt below):
“It’s just so exciting to see Lafayette coming together, and for them to get this grant to be able to provide more healthier options, it has a rollover effect,” said Lemel Jones, executive director of FoodNet-The Greater Acadiana Food Bank, at Thursday’s kickoff event at Clark Field.
The partnership program was made possible by a $1 million “Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana” grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, which awarded the funds to the Kiwanis Club of Lafayette last fall. Another $1.4 million was raised by community partners and in-kind contributions.
To read the full article, click here!
Central Louisiana Local Foods Initiative pushes Eat Local program, promoting healthy food access in nine Louisiana parishes
By Tina Dirmann
staff writer for BCBSLA Foundation
Judy Allen remembers a time, when she was just a girl, living on farmland with her parents in
Natchitoches and was surrounded by the nourishing foods that eventually ended up on her family’s dining room table.
“We had chickens and fruit trees and vegetables in the garden,” Allen said. “And if we killed a pig, we shared it with our cousins and their family, because they lived nearby. And when they killed a cow, they did the same for us. It was true living off the land.”
So much so, that when she eventually shipped off to college, she was plagued with stomach illnesses.
“Because I started eating processed foods for the first time in my life and my body wasn’t used to it,” recalls Allen. “The doctor told me to give it a few months, my body would adjust to it.”
Now, as a retired professional who has returned to her girlhood home town, she wants to re-capture the healthier living habits she learned as a child. And the Central Louisiana Local Foods Initiative wants to help her make that happen.
Last week, the program launched the Eat Local campaign, established to promote ways to eat more fresh foods — locally grown, locally sold. The campaign will eventually stretch into nine parishes: Natchitoches, Rapides, Grant, Avoyelles, LaSalle, Winn, Catahoula, Allen and Vernon.
Sharmita Rideau is passionate about her latest mission — helping the ladies of Southwest Louisiana get on track with their weight loss needs, motivating them to loose the 20 or more pounds they have to shed to improve their overall health and well-being. She calls her program KISS (Keep It Simple Sister) and focuses her 12 week program on easy lessons participants can use throughout their lives to slim down and stay healthy. The class will rotate to various locations throughout Southwest Louisiana, targeting minority women and those who are high-risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. The project is under the Calcasieu Parish’s Dare to be Health program, funded through a $760,000 grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation (Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana) and $1.5 million in matching funds from Partnership for a Healthier Southwest Louisiana.
Lake Charles news station KPLC -7 recently highlighted Sharmita’s latest group of ladies, 13 Westlake area residents — who have lost a combined total of 85 pounds in the first four weeks! Click on the image below to catch the full story. And check back to the Challenge Grant News site for further updates on the ladies of KISS:
Fresh Beginnings’ Lyndsi Lambert shines at Tedx Manhattan viewing event, sharing new healthy food initiatives sweeping through the Baton Rouge Community.
Kudos to Fresh Beginnings Grant Coordinator Lyndsi Lambert, who showed off her healthy eating and nutritional prowess as part of a TEDx Manhattan webcast and speaking engagement, “Changing the Way We Eat.” Slow Food Baton Rouge hosted a viewing party of the forum, which was based in New York City and brought together farmers, chefs and food entrepreneurs from around the country to promote food sustainability and farm fresh food production. Lyndsi helped organize a local viewing of the event, hosting interested parties into the Manship Theater in Baton Rouge. Following the Feb. 16 webcast, Lyndsi spoke at the local gathering, sharing some of the amazing food initiatives taking place in the Baton Rouge community, including the $2.2 million Fresh Beginnings program largely supported through the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation grant program (Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana).
Growing LA’s Marianne Cufone, another Challenge Grant partner who also serves as the executive director for the Recirculating Farms Coalition, even made an appearance at the New York event, held in Times Square. Marianne offered a brief update on the Urban Farming and Food Center under development in the New Orleans downtown region.
The Baton Rouge gathering was a huge success, drawing more than 100 attendants, and prompting lots of positive reaction from the audience, Lyndsi said.
“A number of folks came up to me after to share that they were ‘grateful’ and ‘relieved’ to have been in the company of so many like-minded folks around local food, food education, and food justice in Baton Rouge,” Lyndsi said.
A key element of Lyndsi’s talk was “food security,” which she calls an under-discussed topic.
“Food security is such a critical piece of the food system equation. And you almost never hear it come up, until a disaster happens. So having greater control over where our food comes from, how it’s grown, transported, processed, stored, and distributed is of colossal importance,” Lyndsi said.
During the talk, Lyndsi highlighted Baton Rouge’s steps to increase the availability of healthy foods to local consumers.
Notes Lyndsi, “So many exciting things are happening around food in Baton Rouge. LSU AgCenter has a MarketMaker resource that connects local producers with buyers; the AgCenter is also developing a food incubator so budding food entrepreneurs; Southern AgCenter actually had a Women in Ag workshop today and has incredible organic certification programs; food trucks and cafes that source local produce are on the rise; we just had our first Food Access Summit last November where nearly 200 people came out; Slow Food Baton Rouge has some incredible urban ag programs and workshops; Together Baton Rouge has been increasing food access in Scotlandville with their Mobile Healthy Food Pantry; the Baton Rouge Dietetic Assocation just launched a Healthy Kids Menu Project. It is an exciting time for food in Baton Rouge!”
Click here to view the talks!
Fresh Beginnings, a Challenge Grant partner, holds first Food Access Policy Commission meeting… Group vows to reduce food deserts for East Baton Rouge Parish
Fresh Beginnings, a healthy initiatives program recently awarded a $1 million grant from our foundation’s Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana, took part in the official launch of a new Food Access Policy Commission. The group is a task force of community leaders charged with taking a swipe at food deserts plaguing impoverished regions of East Baton Rouge Parish. Mayor Kip Holden, on hand to kick off the event, spoke about the impact that living just a mile away from a full-service grocery store can have on eating habits, noting, “One mile may not sound like a long way. But if you have no form of transportation, trust me, it’s a long way to travel” to pick up that night’s dinner, let alone that week’s groceries, he said. Fresh Beginnings is a wellness initiative targeting East Baton Rouge, which currently grapples with a 40% poverty rate. And the new commission is the latest innovative approach toward improving health standards in the community, the mayor said. “In fact, ” Holden said, “I believe The Food Access Policy Commission will not only help us implement sustainable solutions for our community, but it will serve as a model for other communities across this nation.”
Commission members include representatives from Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Wal-Mart, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Latter & Blum Realtors, the Louisiana Budget Project and LSU’s College of Agriculture.
So far, plans call for working with small corner markets to sell more fresh fruits and vegetables, develop rotating mobile markets to sell farm fresh foods, and increasing weekly farmers’ markets. The commission will meet monthly to develop policy recommendations and share ideas — so check back with our Challenge Grant News site for regular updates on the commission’s progress!
Check out Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant partner Fresh Beginnings, recently featured on Baton Rouge station WAFB. The story highlights Fresh Beginnings’ alliance with Project Fit America, a national non-profit organization that teaches elementary school students about physical fitness and nutrition. Fresh Beginnings, serving the Baton Rouge community, is funded in part through a $1 million grant from the BCBSLA Foundation and is run by the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative.
FOR THE FULL STORY, CLICK HERE:
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