Louisiana Food Policy- Pepper Bowen

I have been following Culinaria Center for Food, Law, Policy, and Culture work in my city for a while- I find it to be very impressive, inclusive, with systemic work being done.

This interviewer may seem a little too focused on fetishizing our culture including the odd choice of requesting a midday drinking resulting in featuring massive daiquiris from our walkup and drive-through drinking culture (which, as true as that is, could use more context in the description of it),  but still Pepper Bowen’s responses are excellent and thoughtful.

like this:

Bowen: What I find is that, especially for lawmakers, they really do want—as much as we give them crap—they really do want to do whatever it is that their constituents want for them to do. But the problem is that sometimes they are divorced from their actual constituents. They are also, sometimes, funded by folks whose desires and needs are at odds with their actually constituents. But by giving them the information they can make a more intelligent decision.

Still, if this gulp encourages you to check out the National Food and Beverage Museum, and Culinaria’s work, it is worth posting.

Another Fresh Food Initiative grocery store recipient may close in New Orleans

The owners received a $1 million loan from the city’s Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, a program aimed at increasing residents’ access to fresh food. According to reports at the time, $500,000 of the loan was forgivable.

 

Seems to be a tragic confluence of bad-faith investments, management disorder, new disruptive businesses taking away some of the sales, and the lack of resilience in the city around its increasing environmental challenges. Still, I’d like to see what else this fund ended up supporting and what those places are doing now.

Some relevant quotes from Ian’s story linked below:

One of lenders that funded the store’s reopening was First NBC Bank, the local financial institution that collapsed last spring and continues to send ripples through the New Orleans business community. Boudreaux said his loan was acquired by another financial institution which has been more aggressive.

“We opened with the finances upside down to begin with, and it got worse,” he said.

The city also provided a $100,000 Economic Development Fund grant, and the Louisiana Office of Community Development provided a loan for $1 million. The store also received $2.2 million in historic tax credit equity and $2.2 million in new market tax credit equity.

 

Meanwhile, Boudreaux has accused some relatives of stealing money from the family-run business.

 

While these issues have been ongoing, Boudreaux pointed to the August 2017 flood as perhaps the last straw for the business. That disaster, spurred by a summer downpour that revealed widespread problems with the city’s drainage systems, swamped the store and knocked out much of its food-storage equipment.

Here’s my post on the first store closure that had been a recipient.

I mention Circle Food in this piece on another public market site:

The Advocate story

 

Increasing the other impacts of markets

In terms of describing how intellectual and ecological capital can be increased by markets, this interview from a few years back during the kickoff of the Creole Tomato Festival in the French Quarter in New Orleans  is an excellent illustration of how a market manager can do just that:

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – It’s time to talk tomatoes! This weekend the French Market will be filled with tomato festivities for the 29th annual Creole Tomato Festival. News with a Twist Reporter, Kenny Lopez wanted to learn more about the creole tomato. What is it? How’s it different than a regular tomato? How do you pick one?

Andrew McDaniel with Crescent City Farmers Market helped answer those questions.

“It’s been debated upon what a creole tomato is. Some people say it’s a variety of tomato that was put out by LSU in the 1960’s. …the creole tomato is a tomato grown in Louisiana soil. These tomatoes are usually grown along the river parishes, the parishes that line the Mississippi River. The soil is richer, so these are the ones we consider creole,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said that the main difference between a regular tomato and a creole tomato is the taste. “Creole tomatoes stay on the vine longer, so they’re fresher. They’re better because the tomatoes don’t have to travel across the country. The soil is what makes them sweeter,” he said.

He sure knows a lot about creole tomatoes and how to pick some good ones.

“You want them to be firm and red. If it’s for a salad then you don’t want them to have a lot of blemishes. Those kind end up slicing well. When you come to the Farmers Market, you’ll often find a basket called ‘seconds’. These kind of tomatoes are good for stewing, cooking, and making salsa. They are just as good, they don’t always look as pretty as the others, so that’s the reason they’re cheaper,” he said.

The summertime is the perfect time for creole tomatoes.

“Creole tomatoes are just a quintessential summertime food, especially when you pick them up fresh,” McDaniel said.

March 19: St. Joseph’s Day Altars

Below is a link to a post I wrote a few years back about the lovely New Orleans tradition of creating altars on March 19th, St. Joseph, his feast day. This happens in New Orleans because of the large number of Sicilian immigrants that came to New Orleans starting in the 19th century; it was the second largest influx of Sicilian immigration in the 19th century behind New York City.  In Sicily, thanks are given to San Giuseppe for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages.

Food is obviously central to life here, but the idea of these altars has always seemed so special to me as it uses food to create homemade art and to feed people as the altars are broken down afterward and given out. Many of the altar societies also offer a meal on the day as well.

2015 post

So long, NOLa’s Hollygrove farm shop

Hollygrove Market’s debt forces closure of post-Katrina bright spot

I’ve been waiting for this for some time. The design of this program has depended on grants and at times, on the kindness of the neighborhood leadership, and as is the case far too often, on goodwill to carry them through. The costs (some of which are outlined in Paul Barricos’ thoughtful and honest interview in ensuing articles which indicate that the cost of rent and insurance were significant for a non-profit and doesn’t even mention the cost for utilities, which you can imagine…)
More importantly, the original idea was undercut almost immediately by for-profit versions of delivery services and by offering products with too little profit margin to make it. I also commend Paul and his Hollygrove CDC team who have done their best to learn about farming and retail as best they could and stepped up to provide an outlet for local farmers, much like Sankofa has been doing in the lower 9 section of New Orleans for about the same length of time.
As local farmers Grant and Kate Estrade of Local Cooling Farm said today, think of the farmers who sell through this outlet and do your best to not penalize them because of this closure.

For me, the lesson is that community initiatives around food and farming in an urban environment are very very challenging, especially when supply and demand needs are not balanced and the retail food sector decides there is enough business to co-opt the idea behind these community efforts. As this may become public again(!), I will also share that when this leadership opened Hollygrove “farm” in 2008 ish, I sent a strongly worded message to them that I felt the mission and message were muddy and the farmers and harvesters would end up losing through their plan to become an aggregator and distributor without understanding the costs or scope of such an endeavor. Sadly, that is exactly the case.