Local financial institution helps eliminate “Food Deserts”
HARAHAN, LA (December 1, 2014) – New Orleans is known worldwide for its wonderful cuisine, so it may come as a surprise to many that large parts of the city are considered “food deserts” – areas without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. The lack of access to healthy food contributes to a poor diet, which can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases. The USDA estimates that 23.5 million people live in food deserts. But one local financial institution – ASI Federal Credit Union – is working to change that.
In 2011, ASI was one of 12 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) awarded grant funds to serve food deserts. ASI used the $3 million they received to start a revolving loan fund to strengthen healthy food distribution in low-income areas of New Orleans. The New Orleans Food Co-op, located in the New Orleans Healing Center on St. Claude Ave., is one of the first businesses ASI partnered with to eliminate food deserts in our area. Since 2011, the co-op has remained committed to providing access to healthy food at a fair price with a focus on local and regional food production.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the great work that the New Orleans Food Co-op is doing and we are proud to be a partner in their success,” explained ASI FCU President/CEO Mignhon Tourné. “ASI’s mission is to strengthen the financial health of underserved communities through financial services and education. When we can strengthen the financial health of our communities through partnerships with businesses that are improving residents’ quality of life, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Since its inception, ASI’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) program has provided over $1.5 Million low-interest loans to many businesses working to eliminate food deserts in their communities. The HFFI program seeks to increase the availability of nutritious food choices for the areas in Orleans, Jefferson and St Tammany parishes that lack access to healthy food options. ASI FCU is currently looking for more opportunities to partner with businesses that are helping provide nutritious food choices for underserved communities. Projects that can be funded by ASI’s HFFI Loan Program can include, but are not limited to, community gardens with market stands, supermarkets, farmers’ markets, co-ops, urban farms, healthy corner store initiatives, bakeries, or healthy food restaurants with an emphasis on locally-sourced or organic foods. The funds can be used for inventory, equipment, property purchase or renovation, construction, land acquisition and refinancing of business debt.
ASI Federal Credit Union was chartered in 1961 to serve working class members in Southeast Louisiana. For over 50 years, ASI has lived the mission of strengthening the financial health of underserved communities through financial services and education. Today, ASI has more than $310M in assets and 70,000 members and offers 13 branch locations in four parishes. As a low income designated Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), ASI has been awarded over $15M in grants to work towards the elimination of poverty in the communities it serves.