A new approach to promoting healthy food

The financial incentive program that is helping reopen a New Orleans landmark, Circle Food Store, and other food stores since Hurricane Katrina, is a broad-based community effort and a learning experience, according to findings by a Tulane University team led by nutrition researcher Diego Rose.

Circle Food Store

Starting with the venerable Circle Food Store, Tulane
researchers have examined the challenges and
successes of setting up one of the nation’s first
food-retail loan programs.
(Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Certain factors helped to make the program a reality such as key advocates in government and in private organizations, the presentation of a clear picture of local food access issues, and capitalization on unique windows of opportunity post-Katrina, says Rose.

The research found that significant time had to be devoted to educating state and local lawmakers about the new policy, and delays occurred during the process.

New Orleans is one of the first areas in the country to set up an incentive program to encourage stores to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods that lack these foods.

Providing convenient access to nutritional foods is essential to helping people make healthier choices in what they buy and eat, says Rose, head of the nutrition section in the Tulane Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences.

The New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative is a $14 million loan program. Funded by public and private money, the program has to date announced grants totaling more than $1 million for two stores.

As chronic disease rates related to poor diet and obesity increase across the country, other cities are exploring fresh food policies, says Rose. His team at the Tulane Prevention Research Center published their findings in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Our research proves that creating public policies that promote the sale of fresh, healthful foods is possible but delays should also be expected,” Rose says. “As more cities and states recognize the importance of preventing diseases by promoting healthy diets, this research can help guide their work.”

Naomi King is communications and training coordinator for the Prevention Research Center 
at Tulane University.

September 20, 2012
Originally published in Tulane's New Wave


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