I kinda love this story. It’s a celebrity story, but not of one who goes to “sexy” devastated international locales to “raise awareness” that takes the focus away from real international aid work. Instead, it’s the story of Wendell Pierce, of TV’s The Wire and Treme, and how he’s helping to rebuild an area in which he grew up. He understands the needs and nuances of the community, and he recognizes that it’s grocery stores that cater to low-income families that the community needs and affordable housing, not celebrity walk-throughs.
In the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas, the only stores within walking distance are dollar stores, which sell staples like eggs, milk and meat, but few fresh fruits and vegetables. “Grocery stores are a very basic need, but they are especially important in New Orleans,” said John Weidman, deputy executive director of the Food Trust, a Philadelphia nonprofit group that is working with the City of New Orleans to allocate $14 million of public and private money to encourage markets to return. “One of the things we’ve heard is that people who left the city are waiting for grocery stores to come back. It’s a signal that things are back on track.”
Sterling Farms will look like most other conventional grocers, with a deli, bakery, seafood counter and as many as 40,000 items. But it also will cater to the special needs of low-income shoppers. The store will offer a free shuttle to anyone who spends $50 or more, so they need not walk or take the bus with heavy bags. Each month, the store plans a cookout (which in New Orleans usually means a crayfish boil) to raise money for the community.