Local farmers markets doing their part to serve food insecure neighbors

It is important to understand the work that farmers markets have done over the last decade and a half to bridge the digital divide that resulted from the 1994-2004 move from paper food stamps to the EBT card across the U.S. In 2005, New Orleans’ ECOnomics Institute*, house at Loyola University’s Twomey Center for Peace and Justice was one of the first market organizations in the country to build partnerships to fund the technology and the outreach to reclaim the attendance of food stamp shoppers at farmers markets. The organization has expanded its programs to encourage low-income and at-risk neighbors to be able to access healthy food grown by their farm neighbors, and shared its tactics and findings with market organizations across the U.S.

The average benefit for a SNAP recipient is about $4 per day, but in Louisiana the average cost for just one meal is $3. For one person eating three meals a day with no snacks, that’s a food-budget shortfall of $150 each month. For a family of four it’s $600 per month, and to qualify for the program, these families can’t net a monthly income above $2100.

Families participating in WIC can have higher incomes than those receiving only SNAP benefits, and some families receive benefits from both programs. But unlike SNAP, WIC food packages limit families to purchasing specific items and brands, and the allowance for fruits and vegetables is only about $10 per month.

At the office for Market Umbrella and the Crescent City Farmers Market we get several calls a week from people who need food. Their SNAP benefits have run out. The closest food pantry isn’t open that day. Spending money on food now might mean falling behind on rent or the Entergy bill.

Unfortunately, we aren’t always able to help these people in crisis, but we do operate several programs at Crescent City Farmers Market that incentivize and encourage healthy eating on a budget. Our Market Match and Market+ WIC programs give households extra money to purchase fruits and vegetables, all of them grown within 200 miles of the city, picked fresh, and packed full of nutrients.

The Market Mommas Club gives Medicaid-eligible mothers who are breastfeeding $80 a month to spend on local goods at our markets—an amount roughly equal to what might be spent on infant formula over the same period of time.

Besides bringing more fresh produce into our community’s homes, we’ve also partnered with local schools through our Farm to School program. It connects farmers to school food providers and assists with hands-on gardening education for teachers and students.

We believe our farmers and families should have sovereignty over the foods they grow and consume, and that growing and shopping local are vital to our community’s physical, mental, and economic health.

The Lens piece about farmers market programs

* ECOnomics Institute renamed itself Market Umbrella and established itself as an independent 501 (c) 3 organization in 2008.

Roux Carre closes

Here are the details in a letter from the Good Work Network E.D. Hermione Malone:

Dear Friends,

As the year winds to a close, Good Work Network, like many of you, is taking stock of where we are and where we’re headed in the New Year.

For 17 years, Good Work Network has been committed to helping women and minority entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. And in that time we’ve started or strengthened more than 2,200 businesses; created or sustained more than 5,600 full time jobs; and facilitated the awarding of more than $68 million in contracts to small businesses.

While we’ve done much, we realize we can do far more to increase opportunity, wealth and business stability for minority entrepreneurs. When African-Americans own roughly one-third of all businesses, but earn only 2% of all business revenue, a new approach is in order.

So, in 2019 we’re getting back to basics, restructuring our operations to better support entrepreneurs of color. As such, we are closing our Roux Carré food incubator, effective Friday, December 21.

Roux Carré was envisioned as a vehicle to support the cultivation of minority culinary entrepreneurs as restaurant owners/operators. And during its run, Roux saw five culinary businesses created; 8 expanded; and 10-full-time and 8 part-time positions created while providing a showcase for up-and-coming performing and visual artists. However, like many restaurant ventures, Roux Carré failed to grow revenue to a level that would keep it financially stable. Therefore, the Good Work Network Board has made the decision to close Roux and redirect our resources toward more core supports for minority entrepreneurs.

Thank you to the many chefs, funders and community partners who devoted their energy, passion and love to Roux. We invite everyone to celebrate their efforts and current chefs Queen Trini Lisa and Local Menu NOLA at Roux Carré ’s final holiday vendor market on Sunday, December 16, featuring music from Strate Notes. Regular hours will be observed through December 21, when Roux will close at 8 pm. for the last time.

In the coming weeks, Good Work Network will share more about our plans for 2019 as we redouble our efforts to support minority entrepreneurs while building a stronger, thriving economy for all. For more information, please contact Executive Director Hermione Malone at Hermione@goodworknetwork.org.

From all of us at Good Work Network, best wishes for the season and a prosperous New Year.

– The Staff and Board of Good Work Network

Opinion: St. Roch Market

I wrote the piece below for The Lens, although I really wanted to write a piece about the different food offerings between this building, Circle Food, The New Orleans Food Co-op, and Mardi Gras Zone, all within blocks of each other serving the population differently in each case. Unfortunately, the editor at the Lens wasn’t interested in that story.
Circle Food store opened before this food hall did, but is already closed. The Robert’s on St. Claude seemed to have hurt sales at the Circle Food (as it seems to be hurting sales at the New Orleans Food Co-op), but since St. Roch is not a grocery store, it is attracting a good amount of users. Still, the best function of this food hall remains a question to many neighbors, and since it is still owned by the city it may become a political issue again at some point.


Circle Food Store closes

The loss of Circle Food in 2018 is a tremendous blow to the fight against food apartheid in New Orleans. Not only is this historic (once public market) building now shuttered and unlikely to quickly find a new use, but the community has lost its daily connection with its entrepreneurial owner and his longtime zeal to offer affordable food.
This story illustrates the need to dive a little deeper into financing and demand issues around small grocery stores and for the city to prioritize infrastructure for healthy and culturally appropriate food choices in every corner of the city.

Many links in the story below:
Another Fresh Food Initiative grocery store recipient may close in New Orleans

Oral History: NOLa Food Editor Judy Walker

Judy was a great food editor at the local newspaper, remaining very supportive of the work being done in farming, unlike some of the other food writers at the time. She is a genuine person and I am always glad to see her again in her retired life of quilting, family and cooking.
another great interview with a New Orleans food leader, courtesy of Southern Foodways

Here are pics of her autographing her original Cuisinart that she had gifted me a few years back. She thought my request for her to autograph it was hilarious.

History: Eve’s Market

My pal, local activist and publisher Hilarie Schackai, got me in touch with Linda Van Aman who many remember as one of the two owners of Eve’s Market along with Claudia Dumestre. Eve’s took over the original Whole Foods Company site at Adams and Cohen and then moved to Freret for a few years before closing in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.

Here is a bit of that history she shared:

I worked at Whole Foods Company from 1981-1987, mostly at the Esplanade store, first as a grocery stocker, then as department manager, then in upper management.  Somewhere in there, WFC opened a deli & grocery outlet in the Riverwalk mall, which was unsuccessful and closed fairly quickly (not sure about the timeline on that). In early 1987,Whole Foods Market was positioning itself to expand into Louisiana (their first foray outside of TX), and Peter Roy was going to sell them the Esplanade store and close the one on Cohn St.

Claudia & I thought the Cohn store was still very viable, and proposed buying it. Between us we had more than 15 years experience in the biz.

Eve’s Market had its grand opening on April Fool’s Day, 1987 (no fooling! great slogan we thought); we kept all WFC employees who wanted to stay. The name came from a group of friends in a brainstorming session before our takeover — the “market” part came first, then someone said: “Eve’s on Adams” (the corner street). We also wanted to honor our mothers, who had helped fund the takeover deal, and Eve is the mother of us all. Thus Eve’s Market was born. We had a great run on Cohn St., until the landlady was going to sell the building. Our future there was uncertain, plus the building was very old & in need of repairs & renovation. After a lot of shopping around, the Freret St. location was suggested by a community development agency that had offices there. Eve’s moved to 4601 Freret St. in the spring of 2001, into a newly renovated space. 9/11 caused people to stop shopping as much for a while (and when) Whole Foods Market opened on Magazine Street in 2002, seriously eroded our customer base. All Natural Foods, a small store near Arabella Station, closed soon thereafter. We tried to refocus as a locally-owned small business, but eventually put the building & business up for sale, though we stayed open until Hurricane Katrina flooded the area in 2005. In the aftermath, the building was bought and became Zeus’s Place.

Some other asides from Linda:

We worked with Food Not Bombs to donate excess food to them, and bought from several local farmers consistently through the years, and had a great rapport with our regulars. •The founders of the food co-op met with us when our building was up for sale to consider it as a space for their store, but nothing came of that (too soon, maybe?). •The natural foods industry changed drastically as WFM expanded & bought up independent stores across the country. Manufacturers, who had supported small independent brokers and stores, began to change the rules to favor larger stores & distributors. Stores like ours could no longer get competitive deals.

Preservation In Print (2001)

Oral History: Poppy Tooker, Slow Food New Orleans founder, Louisiana Eats host, Cookbook author.

There is a great oral history of Poppy’s food activism courtesy of ©Southern Foodways Alliance and interviewer/writer Rien Fertel, found at | www.southernfoodways.org.


On the Slow Food New Orleans chapter she founded and how she rallied the SF USA chapters to help local food producers in and after 2005:

Poppy Tooker: Oh, yeah! Oh it not only went through Katrina, Slow Food helped save the food producers of the city.

Rien Fertel: Can you give a short history of that, or how that—?

Poppy Tooker: Of course. By that time I was very involved, because when Slow Food started that’s how I met Richard McCarthy and became involved with the Crescent City Farmers Market because that’s part of the mission of Slow Food is to support our food producers. And so I don’t even think I was—maybe I was on the Board then. I don’t know. I just know that I was like Richard’s sort of right-hand girl, me and Darlene Wolnik, and when Katrina happened they both left the city and were living outside the city. Darlene was in Cleveland or Cincinnati and Richard was in Houston.

And so I was the one who was back here immediately and—

Rien Fertel: How long were you away after the 29th of August?


Poppy Tooker: I was living back in the city again by October 1st. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina I was here. So I began to reach out to the food producers from the Market to find out their needs and what their condition was. And before I got back, like September—the letter’s actually printed as it was on my computer in the Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook, the letter from Kay Brandhurst describing what had happened to she and Ray.

And I was in Baton Rouge at my sister-in-law’s house and I started getting emails from my Slow Food friends all across the country asking how they could help. Well, I couldn’t tell anybody how they could help. But what I did was I just flipped Kay’s email to them and said you tell me how you can help this. And I don’t know what to say.


Rien Fertel: And she was the shrimp lady right?

Poppy Tooker: The shrimp lady.

Rien Fertel: Known as the shrimp lady.

Poppy Tooker: Yeah, I mean she even—

Rien Fertel: At the Farmers’ Market.


Poppy Tooker: —signed it aka the Shrimp Lady. “We will be back,” she said. I mean the boat was sunk, Ray was trying to get the boat lifted, she and the kids are living first in Shreveport and then in a one-bedroom apartment out in Metairie with four children. I mean it was just terrible times. And so what ended up happening was we created a fund that was called Terra Madre Fund that was committed to getting the money that people raised quickly into the hand of the food producers who could get back into business again. And so a lot of that money went to Crescent City Farmers Market people, but there were also really genius things that we did with the money that makes me so happy to this day.

Of course some of that money went to finance the promotion and getting Leah Chase’s first fund-raiser to get the restaurant reopened, and that was on Holy Thursday in 2006 at Muriel’s Restaurant. And across the country people couldn’t believe somebody would give another restaurateur their restaurant, but that’s what we do here in New Orleans. The other part of the money probably the one I love the most is I did not know the Brocatos at the time of the hurricane, personally. But I knew Dana Logsdon and her mother Mary from the Market. And they had La Spiga Bakery down in the Marigny, which was fine, but their houses had flooded. They were in Baton Rouge; they were only running the bakery part-time. The Brocato’s flooded, everything; they were wiped out.

Rien Fertel: Were wiped out.


Poppy Tooker: They’re in Houston and they’re thinking about not coming back. They were actively thinking of opening a Brocato’s in Houston. And Dana got in touch with me and she said we cannot let this happen. And so we tracked down the Brocatos they next time they came to New Orleans. We sat down and met with them—this was probably January of 2006—and we worked out a deal so that when Dana couldn’t be at La Spiga having it open, the Brocatos had use of their bakery, and that was how on St. Joseph’s Day in 2006 the Brocatos cookies were back on the shelf, because they were at La Spiga. And the wonderful thing was that that meant that Slow Food money, that dollar, helped two businesses, because the Brocatos paid rent that was paid by Slow Food to Dana and her mother, so it got the Brocatos back in business and it kept La Spiga in business.

Rien Fertel: Wow. And helped Leah Chase also.


Poppy Tooker: And helped Leah Chase, and helped Ray and Kay get the boat lifted, and helped, oh my goodness, the citrus people, the L’Hostes. I ran their whole Christmas in—at Christmas 2005, they had oranges, they had citrus, but they had no way to sell them except the Market and so Slow Food people across the United States, for $25, bought a box of citrus that got shipped and made it in time for Christmas, and the L’Hostes had no way of taking payment except a check in the mail. And the mailman didn’t come on a regular basis in those days.

And to me that was a further illustration of how good those Slow Food people were because Linda L’Hoste shipped every one of those boxes on the promise that the checks were in the mail and she got every single check.


Rien Fertel: Wow. So—


Poppy Tooker: And every order went through me on my computer. I almost lost my mind. I would print them out and bring them to her at the Market. I took all the orders. That was an insane thing.

Rien Fertel: Was this—


Poppy Tooker: Slow Food USA advertised it and that’s how they got the word out. And then all the Slow Food members across the United States.


On tradition:

Poppy Tooker: Yeah, totally, because that’s my whole bent. I write about—it’s all about food history. It’s all about the food tradition. It’s all about what makes us who and what we are here.


Her recent activism connected with food:


Poppy Tooker:  I have been doing—well, really the charitable organization that I’ve worked the most for in recent times is the NO/AIDS Task Force, which has become CrescentCare. And just on a lark we’ve started doing these drag queen brunches that benefit CrescentCare, and they have just gotten such an incredible response and I just think that that book will be a hoot. And so if I manage to pull that off there will be a charitable tie-in to that, and then maybe I’ll be ready for the memoir.


On her famous “Eat It To Save It” slogan:

Rien Fertel: What did your grandmother mean by—

Poppy Tooker: My great-grandmother?

Rien Fertel: —your great-grandmother mean by eat it to save it?


Poppy Tooker: She meant clean your plate.

Rien Fertel: That just meant clean your plate?


Poppy Tooker: It just meant finish eating. Finish what you’re eating. Don’t make me throw it away. So save it: eat it to save it. And so it has now come to mean something vastly different.

On women in food:

Rien Fertel: Okay. This is my second to last question: a lot of your relationships in the food world have been with important women. We’re talking about Leah Chase, we’re talking about—

Poppy Tooker: Susan Spicer.

Rien Fertel: Susan Spicer.

Poppy Tooker: Lee Barnes.


Rien Fertel: Lee Barnes. Do you see New Orleans as particular having an important community of women in the restaurant world? Is there a reason for that? Am I just making that up?

Rien Fertel: We’re in a moment now where things are changing politically, socially, in restaurant kitchens.

Poppy Tooker: Yeah, we did that show, too.

Rien Fertel: So—

Poppy Tooker: We did that show, too, [Laughs] the sexual abuse show.

Rien Fertel: Yeah. So what is there—

Poppy Tooker: I think it’s just a— this is just something that, thank God, has naturally happened. You’ve got people like Kristen Essig, Danielle Sutton—help me with this—Allison Vines-Rushing, even though she’s mostly cooking for her babies—


Rien Fertel: Yeah, but I want to talk about personally, because you even talk about your—you have a very deep and personal relationship with a ghost, with a woman, right, Elizabeth Kettering, Madame Begué.

Poppy Tooker: Oh well, so yes, yes, the ghost of Madame Begué. I took cooking classes from her—because I revised all the recipes that she did and so I felt like I took cooking classes from the 19th century ghost. But then you have to remember I also have a very close relationship with the cross-dressing ghost from Tujague’s, the cross-dressing ghost who was a fan of Madame Begué’s, and he’s very happy to be back from the dead and better than ever. So the drag queen thing is just chasing me, see?


Rien Fertel: I think you have to write the book.

Poppy Tooker: Uh-hmm.

Rien Fertel: All right I have—


Poppy Tooker: So did I answer that? I just think it’s about time and it’s way too late. It’s ridiculous, it’s absolutely absurd that we’re talking about a time forty years ago, when I had a hard time getting a job in a restaurant kitchen because I was a white woman. So great, forty years later, and I’m having a really hard time coming up with all the women chefs—really, all the women chefs. It’s still a good old boys club. Okay, great, Rebecca Wilcomb won best chef of the South; way to go, girl. Who am I not thinking of? Well, of course Kelly Fields is nominated twice, but it’s about damn time, huh? But look at it; it’s still not—no.

Opinion: Slow and Deliberate

I wrote this in 2008 about our work in New Orleans. The colleague from New Orleans was our dear departed Marilyn Yank.

You, me and Farmer McGee
Here I am at my second food conference in 2 weeks. Luckily for me, both were in areas I had not spent any time in: Chandler AZ, and Santa Fe NM. The first had over 550 food activists (the picture is of the living mural added to each day by an artist listening in on the discussions), and the second convening was for about 75 food people within the 4 Corners region.

Clearly, much effort is expended to have local foods represented at these things and to be held in locations that represent transformative work that others can learn from and can also support. For example, the first, in Chandler, is home to the Pima tribe, which has the sad measure of over 90 percent of their people diagnosed with diabetes. As they work desperately to turn that around, they finally have money via their recently-won 100-year legal battle to reclaim their water rights. The location of the conference was their new resort where they are recreating the Gila River basin in order to renew their agricultural traditions, even while they build partnerships and pilots to tell their story. This was a thoughtful conference that attempted to address underlying issues that successful local food systems need to address; racism, education gaps, long term poverty, and the other isms that have held our society back from being truly successful.

The second was put together with the wonderful folks from Farm to Table in New Mexico who have always inspired me with their work on food access, food culture and food sovereignty. I was asked to participate in 2 workshops around market issues and had the pleasure of listening to my fellow presenters who worked in the 4 corners region. Excellent, talented practitioners. All that and the natural world of Santa Fe. wow.

I came away with a renewed sense of purpose for integrating social justice issues into the food work, and also with a sense of gratitude for the fellow pilgrims on this road. Gratitude for people who have given most of their total energy and time and brain to the salvation of their food system, which will benefit all of us.

One of these folks appeared on the last day of the second event; a fellow New Orleanian who was in town for a related thing. She had been on silent retreat for many weeks and this was her first re-entry into the larger world via food system organizing. She was shaky after the first afternoon of meetings; physically so, and also seemed a bit taken aback at the swirl of ideas, people and decision.
Her physical reaction was not a surprise to me, as as she tends to be slow and deliberate and solidly intentional in her choices, small and large. To be honest, that has been a tension between us as peers, as I have almost no patience at all and am about action, action, action-absolutely to a fault. But I’m learning.
As we talked on the wooden stairs of the old hotel lobby that sits at the end of the Santa Fe trail, I suddenly saw her as if I was standing behind her on a hillside path, looking over her shoulder at the beautiful but deep canyon she was unwillingly climbing in to, while I could see my path farther along, quickly skirting the canyon to get to the other side. Funny, how visions come.

That vision came partly from the concern I heard in the words she voiced; concern about the missing pieces of the food organizing and also her wariness as to the scale and bureaucracy that was becoming evident in this field.
I understood it.
I understood it and have wondered too if we could withstand the big, fancy words at the dazzling conferences while we attend to the BIGGER work of literally saving the food system daily, weekly here, finding ways to save farmers and fishers and get good food to all. Still using the visionary language and fast ideas that come via these conferences that do seem necessary to build a system that is truly alternative while finding time and ways to comfort and cheer each other on in some authentic fashion.
Can we do both?
Can we hold back the urge to ramp up this work too fast to get to the “winning”, and instead build a regional movement that would be among the first of its kind in our large country? Hold back the glee at being invited to the table and instead insist on staying at the smaller table with more people represented directly- and insisting those decision makers join us there?
Are we brave enough to be truly at “scale” in our ideas and implementations and to have the type of thoughtful yet innovative movement that actually does shift the world. Shift it slightly globally- which is a massive shift locally and regionally, as it should be.
Can we afford to be slow and deliberate?
What are our principles?
Do we know where to stop; what is too big?
Can we truly learn from each other, or are we all just recreating ideas over and over again within a largely protected white activist world vision?
Does our work always translate to indigenous and immigrant communities or are we just coopting ideas and language to spread outwardly?

is this a frontier of new ideas or a unearthing of old ideas?




History: Whole Food Company

I will be posting a series of notes for each major entry for the timeline. If you have info to share, please let me know.

1975: Opening of Whole Food Company at Adams @ Cohn

From Robert Thompson, longtime activist:
We belonged to the Robert Street Coop 1972. Liz and I worked cash register each week. The residents of the house included our friend Steve Samuels and Rick Moss (Tulane students). A buyer went to French Market and bought seasonal stuff. Food was arranged like a store. Buyers circulated around and bought what they wanted. Afterwards a guy from the Marengo St commune would come and buy up all the remaining food. This coop functioned during school year. Summertime the student members left, and those of us who lived here would combine efforts at coop on Cohn Street. The serious player there was an acquaintance named Armand Jonte. He was later a chef at Gautreaux’s I think. Seems like there were a couple of roommates with him on Cohn, I’ll try to figure who. But Armond was in my mind the soul of the Cohn St Coop. There was always talk of a storefront and I think by the second summer they made the move from Cohn Street to the Coop store building by the cemetery. –

October 1974:  Whole Food Company (WFC) opened its doors in New Orleans in Its mission was to be a grocery store featuring good, wholesome food. Sales doubled each year for the first four years. By 1978, the store (only 1100 square feet) was doing more than $1 million per year. (From WFM corporate history)

1981: Opening of Whole Food Company, Esplanade Avenue.
In 1981, WFC opened a larger store on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. WFC became the largest outside customer of Texas Health Distributors, the wholesale division of Whole Foods Market. (From WFM corporate history)

From Linda Van Aman, founder of Eve’s Market who (along with Claudia Dumestre took over the original WFC location before moving to Freret):

I worked at Whole Foods Company from 1981-1987, mostly at the Esplanade store, first as a grocery stocker, then as department manager, then in upper management.  Somewhere in there, WFC opened a deli & grocery outlet in the Riverwalk mall, which was unsuccessful and closed fairly quickly (not sure about the timeline on that). In early 1987,Whole Foods Market was positioning itself to expand into Louisiana (their first foray outside of TX), and Peter Roy was going to sell them the Esplanade store and close the one on Cohn St.

1988: Purchase of Whole Food Company by Whole Foods Market.
(From WFM corporate history) In May of 1988, the Esplanade store became the sixth Whole Foods Market.

(From Charleston Magazine, SEPTEMBER 2006) Peter Roy, who grew up with four sisters in a fifth-generation New Orleans family. In 1975, Roy began working at his sister’s new natural food store, Whole Food Company becoming its president in 1978. In 1988, Roy merged it with Whole Foods Market and moved to the West Coast to become president of the new California region for Whole Foods Market. In 1993, was promoted to president of the Company. “Basically, I bought my sister out and woke up 25 years later.”


2002: Whole Foods Market opens Arabella Station location.