Nearly half of the city of Lafayette residents live in census tracts that the USDA has designated as a “food desert”—where low incomes and little access to sources of fresh food can lead to health issues, hamper economic development, and contribute to a lower quality of life. The food desert covers most of north Lafayette.
Of the nearly 65,000 residents who live in Lafayette’s food desert, more than half are low income and persons of color. In the six poorest census tracts in the food desert, where the issue is most pronounced, 25% of households don’t have a car.
And the problem is getting worse. Over the last few decades, the Northside has lost all but a few of its healthy shopping options. Food deserts have largely resulted from systematic inequities.
Residents have been fighting back, working at the neighborhood level to start farming their own produce and starting up markets to reach their neighbors. But they are in need of capital investment, support, and engagement.
Over the last year, representatives from the United Way of Acadiana, Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, and Lafayette Consolidated Government convened nearly 50 different individuals and organizations to work on grassroots, inclusive solutions. Our goal is to reduce the size of the Northside food desert by one-third over the next five years.
Our proposal would use $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds as the required match to a $1 million Collective Impact Grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation. The LPTFA would also contribute $500,000 toward the effort, and other smaller sources of contributions bring the budget to approximately $3M.
-$390K to establish a UWA fund – the Lafayette Fresh Food Initiative – dedicated to engagement, advocacy, neighborhood coordination, SNP incentives, urban gardens, and events.
-$285K to build a Local Food Network Initiative, the necessary capital investments to connect local farmers to end users, including restaurants, neighborhood farmers markets, and local stores. Also ensuring that every neighborhood is able to support a farmers market.
-$207K for the Corner Store Initiative, a special loan fund for equipment upgrades for small local neighborhood stores to begin to provide fresh produce and healthy pre-prepared meals.
-$1.6 million for Northside Grocery Stores Initiative, a special revolving loan fund designed to support the development of new grocery stores and expansions to existing local stores, as well as marketing and economic development support for potential sites and stores.
The LPTFA is in the process of creating a certified Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) that will help manage the lending aspects of this program. Proceeds from the various loan funds will be used for long-term sustainable funding for the work of the Fresh Food Initiative. The UWA will manage the program aspects of this work with the help of an advisory committee.
The Price Tag
$1,000,000 ARPA contribution