Writer and humorist Lewis Grizzard said “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” I completely agree, but would add a few more homegrown indulgences that make also me smile: juicy watermelon, buttery corn on the cob, ripe peaches and fresh butter beans. The plethora of farmers markets, roadside stands and grocery stores in most neighborhoods make purchasing these summertime delicacies easy.
However, as New Orleans is nationally ranked as having the largest number of “food deserts,” a shocking amount of residents lack similar availability to high quality fresh fruits and vegetables. Recognizing this need, a community-minded group founded the innovative nonprofit Top Box Foods Louisiana with the simple purpose of making healthy, fresh food affordable and accessible to everyone.
After a college volunteer stint with Top Box Foods Chicago, 19-year-old Connor DeLoach teamed up with two classmates after realizing that a significant demographic was being neglected as it related to food access and equity. After researching cities with greatest need, the trio settled upon bringing the Top Box model to New Orleans in 2013. Now its Executive Director, Connor emphasizes that Top Box Foods Louisiana (TBFLA) isn’t a grocery store, a farmers market or a food bank but instead is a year-round accessible resource for anyone who wants to purchase affordable, healthy food. By using an alternative supply chain distribution model eliminating the middleman to buy at lower cost in bulk, TBFLA implements programs that are promoting healthier eating and lifestyles.
Top Box Foods Louisiana currently manages two unique programs: Makin’ Groceries Program and Healthy Corner Store Collaborative. Utilizing volunteers to pack grocery boxes weekly with fresh fruits and vegetables along with frozen meats, fish and poultry, the Makin’ Groceries Program offers Friday and Saturday deliveries to convenient neighborhood sites across the city. Relationships and trust are the foundation of the program, cultivated through strategic partnerships with community organizations and churches where customers place and pick up orders. Educating and advocating, the Healthy Corner Store Collaborative connects with corner store proprietors in areas with limited food access to encourage promotion and sales of fresh, healthy foods.
TBFLA recently started services in Baton Rouge, and is in the process of developing a healthy heat-and-eat meal delivery program. “Listening to the community’s needs is at the heart of what we do, which is why we’re excited to introduce healthy heat-and-eat meals in the coming months. Although we’re reaching over 2,500 families (and counting) with our affordable produce, it’s imperative that we consider people who are unable to cook, including those who lack kitchen space, have disabilities or are busy balancing demanding lives. These cost effective options will make the healthy choice easier for people all throughout New Orleans and Baton Rouge,” shared Connor.
Top Box is proud to have delivered over 25,000 healthy food boxes to New Orleans families, fulfilling their mission that healthy food matters but where you live shouldn’t.
A little more…
Chicken Salad Lettuce Wrap (Serves 4)
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup baby carrots, chopped
1 medium green apple, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch salt, to taste
4 leaves romaine lettuce
Boil chicken breasts until cooked through. Cube chicken into bite-sized pieces. In a medium or large bowl,mix together chicken, yogurt, carrots and apples. Season with garlic powder, ground black pepper, paprika and a pinch of salt. Serve on top of a leaf of romaine lettuce.