Tulane-student-supports-grassroots-food-access-effort

Tulane student supports grassroots food access effort

by Naomi Englar
March 2013

Years without a full-service grocery store in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward have driven a dedicated coalition of residents to create a plan to address the lack of quality affordable food. Now, as the Lower Ninth Ward Food Access Coalition puts its plan into action, one public health student is helping as part of the Tulane Prevention Research Center’s (PRC) practicum internship program.
Mark Knapp, a graduate student at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, helped research and compile this Food Action Plan. He’s now helping execute the strategies residents decided they wanted in their community: a mobile grocery store, a healthy corner store and a school-based food store. The Lower Ninth Ward Food Access Coalition is actively advocating for these strategies and working with partners to develop them.
Knapp was matched with the Lower Ninth Ward’s food access project in fall 2012 through the Tulane PRC’s practicum program, which helps place public health students in rigorous internships with local host organizations.
The Tulane PRC’s practicum program opened up resources and guidance for the neighborhood, said Jenga Mwendo, food security coordinator at one of the Food Access Coalition’s lead organizations – the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development. Not only has the internship allowed for access to resources and experts at Tulane, but also new perspectives and approaches, Mwendo said.
“The Tulane PRC Practicum Program is an excellent option,” Mwendo said. “Not only do you work with an interested intern, they come with their own skills and a certain lens: public health.”
Knapp’s latest work has involved researching various food retail models that have worked nationally and ways to apply them locally, all while keeping in mind the goals residents identified in the Food Action Plan.
“It’s a giant puzzle you’re slowly putting together,” said Knapp. “It’s been really great to take things from the Food Action Plan and use as an outline, like concerns from residents.”
The concerns that residents want to see addressed alongside strategies to improve food access include affordability, youth involvement, job creation, respect for culture and history, Knapp said.
The Lower Ninth Ward, a low- to middle-income area with roughly 6,000 residents and an African-American majority population, has suffered with poor food access for decades. The Food Action Plan sees food access as not only a community health issue, but also a human rights issue and a matter of economic development.

For information about the Food Access Coalition and its plan, visit sustainthenine.org/foodactionplan.

(Photo by Tulane PRC Staff: Jenga Mwendo, food security coordinator at the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, and Mark Knapp, Tulane public health graduate student, are working on a plan to bring more food retail outlets back into the Lower Ninth Ward. Many stores closed after Hurricane Katrina. But quality, affordable food was limited even before the storm.)

Topics:   practicum , diet , nutrition , food environment , farmers market , policy

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