Actor Wendell Pierce is giving back to his hometown of New Orleans in a major way. Pierce launched a chain of grocery and convenience stores named Sterling Farms in the food deserts of his hometown. The stores are already proving themselves to be one of supreme customer service, as customers are given a free ride home if they spend more than $50!
“The most important thing to me is creating a relationship with the community; creating an economic engine as an opportunity for them just to have access to a decent grocery store,” Pierce says. Pierce may have taken advantage of a benefit offered by city officials. In an attempt to increase access to fresh, high quality food city officials created a program called Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, which includes a low-interest loan program for supermarkets, grocery stores, and other fresh food retailers and the use of federal economic development block grants. “One, it improves the health of our citizens. Two, it creates jobs,” said Aimee Quirk, an economic adviser to Mayor Mitch Landrieu. They hope successful grocery stores can play a role in bringing people back to the city.
Sterling Farms may be a lifesaver for the 30 percent of residents in the Lower 9th Ward who lack personal transportation. New Orleans has struggled to strengthen its economy following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The 2010 census indicates a population for the Lower 9th Ward that is roughly a fifth of what it was before the 2005 storm’s levee breaches. Census figures also show the population is about 60 percent of pre-Katrina levels in the 7th Ward.