Editor’s Note: ViaNolaVie is working with the founder and producers of the The Listening Post. TLP is a community media project that aims to meet residents deep in their own neighborhoods, on porches, at libraries, in barbershops, and start conversations about local news in New Orleans and both get and share important information about life in the city.
Each week on their WWNO radio segment, TLP explores issues ranging from healthcare and WhoDat, to tattoos and transportation. Listeners are able to contribute via TLP recording devices at local libraries or via a text messaging service, which then became source material for these programs. This piece aired on June 19, 2014.
Louisiana has one of the highest rates of obesity in the U.S. Around 34% of adults in the state are overweight.
Healthy food options are increasing around New Orleans, but many residents still struggle to access them.
Local resident Christine admits that yesterday wasn’t her best eating performance.
“I ate pizza yesterday. Pepperoni and Italian Sausage, and some buffalo wings on the side. I just pigged out and ate what I wanted to eat. It was fun,” she says.
But now she’s back in the healthy eating saddle. Christine is taking a healthy cooking class through Second Harvest Food Bank. She’s learning how to cook red bean burgers and baked zucchini. After the class she’ll get a bag of groceries that goes with today’s recipe.
“I cook. Cooking is more healthy than processed foods. So I cook more than I eat out,” she says.
We wanted to know about YOUR food habits, so we asked:
Here are some of the text message responses we got:
“It’s very easy to find fresh produce in my area….I cook 4 times a week… I eat out on occasions, 2 times a month.”
“Yesterday I ate two breakfast tacos (as I also did today), a salad for lunch and a large luxurious dinner with a visiting friend. It’s very easy to find fresh prod cue in mid-city, we got a grocery boom over here. I eat something that I’ve cooked pretty much every day, in summer it’s so hot so probably more meals out, or buy pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and salad. (How much of the American diet is rotisserie chicken?)”
“I cooked lunch (polenta eggplant tofu over mixed greens) and got free food at a weird cocktail party in the garden district for dinner”
“I ate a salad. I go to whole food to get fresh produce. There is no place close to my house to get “GOOD” fresh produce, not in my neighborhood. I cook maybe once a week but I eat out (fast food ) at least 10 times a week.”
“Beef stew, I cook every 3 days.I eat prepared.”
“Fried shrimp and grits.”
“Salad and crepes, somewhat easy, cook often, occasional prep foods, eat out often“
“I ate at Ba Mien in the East yesterday! A favorite of mine. I had beef pho. Finding produce is easy.”
“I ate a Poboy. Made with NO oysters. Cook 5 days a week. Eat out about 2”
“Yesterday I had 2 hard boiled eggs and NO Brew coffee, disgusting Thai from a place on Carrolton, and for dinner I made an Asian noodle bowl with kale, garlic, red onions and bell pepper in a light soy/season rice vinegar sauce. As a vegetarian, access to fresh fruits and vegetables is very important. shop at the downtown Rouses, Mid-City Whole Foods and the Food Co-op in the Marigny. I do wish we had another grocery store near Poland/Holy Cross area. I cook/prepare meals daily. Breakfast/Lunch AND dinner is preferable. I only like to eat out a few times a week…food here is DELICIOUS, but so heavy and high calorie. :-)”
“Hollygrovemarket is pretty close. I eat out far too often. Almost every day.Yesterday I ate at a breakfast sandwich from Laurel Street Bakery, soup from PJ’s and Papa Johns. It is very easy to buy local produce near where I live.”
“Not much trouble finding produce—-both from grocery and street vendor. Dinner: sirloin meat & spaghetti sauce over wheat pasta, peas & salad of red leaf lettuce, avocado, cucumber, creole tomato, carrots, brocolli. Coffee ice cream. Lunch: peanut butter & blueberry preserves on oat nut bread, coffee yogurt, small amount of corn chips. Breakfast: Special K cereal with a banana and non-fat milk, coffee with half-n-half. A granola bar.”
“I ate scrambled eggs, a Lean Cuisine and sausage, sweet pepper sandwich. Fresh produce is fairly easy to find in Lakeview but it seems more expensive here than most other cities. We mostly eat at home due to cost savings. We eat fast food more than restaurants again bc of cost.”
“I ate bake chicken yesterday. It very hard to find fresh products in the east. I rarely prepared foodcuz my family always ordered”
“I have decided to feed my family the most nutritious, non processed, local foods that I can. I visit Hollygrove Market every Saturday and purchase the box. We eat out on special occasions and always have supper together around the table.”
“I ate baked salmon, potatoes, asparagus, and garlic bread. It is very easy to find fresh produce, as I live a block from the New Orleans Co-op. We cook at least 5 nights a week. 3 meals out of the week are usually pre cooked store bought meals. We might eat out once a week”
“My family and I went out to Le CrepeNanou for dinner last night and it was delicious. The avocado stuffed with crab meat and the saut ed vegetable crepes are fabulous! It is very easy for us to get fresh produce living near Hollygrove. We probably eat out once a week, eat prepared foods once a week, and cook at home the rest!”
“I ate sprouts from Our School at Blair Grocery. Yum. Had to go toL9 and beg for a retail bag!”
“Cook 2-3 times a week. Eat out once a week.”
“Yesterday I ate roasted chicken, green beans, and a bunch of peaches. It’s easy for me because I have a car and live close to hollygrove farm”
“I cook about four nights a week”
Back at the Second Harvest Food Bank, instructor Karen Gardner is assessing the progress of the red bean burger recipe.
“Everybody knows how to cook in New Orleans,” Gardner says. “This is a national program and there are 33 places where these classes take place. When we’ve talked and met with people who’ve done classes in other cities, they’re a lot about cooking. Our class is a lot about nutrition because in New Orleans, as I’ve experienced so far, people know how to cook and the folks who come to our classes are usually interested in taking their cooking it and making it a little bit healthier.”
But Gardner says New Orleans is a lot like the rest of the country in regards to food access.
“In New Orleans we have to kind of fight against our environment to find healthy food and to eat healthy food,” she says.
More than food desserts, the city’s main problem is “food swamps” — areas with an overabundance of snack foods. Tulane’s School of Public Health published an article on the topic of food swamps.
Gardner says some people never make the transition to taking the classroom home with them, but she does get the occasional dinner invite, and lots of anecdotal successes.
“I met with someone recently, the day before Mother’s Day. She said that her daughter and her husband were making one of our recipes we’d made for her Mother’s Day dinner,” she says.