New food store explores its potential through HIA process

In a matter of weeks, New Orleans' newest public food market will open in the burgeoning Central City neighborhood. One of the unique elements of the Jack & Jake's market – in addition to its focus on providing affordable, locally farmed foods to residents – is a process it went through prior to opening called an Health Impact Assessment, or HIA.

HIAs have been used across the country as a tool to plan construction projects and analyze changes in public policies because it involves mapping out the future potential health impacts that a change could have on an existing neighborhood and surrounding residents.

The HIA for the Jack & Jake's market in Central City is the first one on record in Louisiana.

Creating an HIA

This past year, the HIA process was led by the City of New Orleans Health Department, the Network for Economic Opportunity, New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, and Alembic Community Development. These partners held meetings with community leaders, residents, local nonprofits, and public health groups like the Tulane Prevention Research Center to create the HIA report that was published this spring. The report outlines recommended educational programs, initiatives, and events – such as cooking classes and connecting residents to job opportunities – for Jack & Jake's to conduct at its market, which is also the historic former Myrtle Banks Elementary School.

"The Health Impact Assessment is a useful tool to demonstrate how decisions made in other sectors can impact health," said Charlotte Parent, director of the New Orleans Health Department. "We appreciate the opportunity to work with Alembic Community Development, Jack & Jake's and other partners to help maximize the health benefits of this new market for Central City residents."

Jonathan Leit, director of the New Orleans office of Alembic Community Development, the consulting and development firm that bought the Myrtle Banks property in 2011 and led the $17 million renovation, agreed: "Through the HIA, we saw the power of public health as an organizing tool for community development. While not every real estate project can bring a grocery store to an underserved area, every project can try to understand its impacts on public health and work to maximize positive outcomes."

The community's feedback

While the market's developers and owners had received some general feedback earlier in the planning, the HIA process gave direct and specific insights into the community's concerns and desires.

"The community’s biggest concerns all centered around one idea, and that was taking ownership of Jack & Jake’s," said Daniel Momont, Jack & Jake's food and beverage manager. "To feel like this was Central City’s market, residents would need to see affordable items throughout the store. They would need to see their neighbors working here. They wanted to see the grounds and the building maintained and kept beautiful. They wanted to feel proud of it and call it their own. This concept was something we’d been considering all along, but the HIA report really emphasized the need to keep the market affordable and approachable."

Now that the market is about to open, Jack & Jake's plans to implement recommendations from the HIA report by creating educational events and classes that are both informative and fun.

"Residents were concerned about the price and scheduling of these classes, so we will be working on making them easily accessible to everyone," Momont said. "We partnered with the Central City Renaissance Alliance, JOB1 and the Office of Workforce Development to conduct a neighborhood-specific job fair and are committed to hiring locally. And the maintenance of the edible landscape, fruit trees, and gardens will be entrusted to the community, which will be able to literally enjoy the fruits of its labors."

In addition to the Jack & Jake's public market, the mission-driven for-profit company also conducts wholesale operations, moving local healthy foods into schools and hospitals. For more information about Jack & Jake's, visit

To read the HIA report from the New Orleans Health Department, click here.

By Naomi Englar, Tulane PRC

(Tulane PRC Staff Photos: Click on the photo above for a slideshow of photos from inside the new Jack & Jake’s public market. The space includes covered stalls for fresh produce, shelves of dry goods and grocery items, prepared food counters, kitchen equipment for teaching cooking classes, and more.)

Topics:   diet , nutrition , agriculture , food environment , community health , health communication

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