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Let’s Do Sterling Farms In LA


THE VIEW FROM HERE-Not too long ago I wrote two CityWatch articles (August 26, 2013:  “The Fight for Healthy Foods” and November 14, 2013:  “SNAP and Our Moral Compass”) concentrating on how healthy foods is our right!  Needless to say, I was delighted when I came across a news segment that was highlighting an enterprise that is already doing some of the very things which I have been advocating.   I cannot help but share this information with you during this holiday season with the hope that some enterprising soul or souls out there might take inspiration from this “project” and pursue something similar in our own neck of the woods. 


Many of you know this actor, Wendell Pierce, from shows like Treme and The Michael J. Fox Show.  What you may not know is that he is also a committed activist who has put his money where his mouth is!  

As recently as March of this year, Sterling Farms opened for the first time in Marrero near New Orleans—an area still in need of a lot of help since Hurricane Katrina.  Since then, there is a string of Sterling Farms Grocery Stores (4 in all) and Sterling Xpress Convenience Stores (4 as well)—part of Sterling Fresh Foods, LLC, a partnership of three:  Pierce, Troy Henry (his father’s first name is Sterling, hence the market’s name), and James Hatchett 

Their mission in their own words: 

“We offer a full range of supermarket products, including fresh produce, dairy, meats, seafood, and deli goods.  Our bakery will feature the tasty treats of the renowned baker and actor, Dwight Henry.  Our name-brand packaged goods include value-priced specials.  Our Pharmacy, H & W Drug Store, will help meet your families’ prescription medication needs.  And customers who spend $50 or more have access to our Shuttle Service for a ride home.”  [Pierce believes that for the many who depend on the bus or foot for transportation to his markets, the moral thing to do is to offer a ride home to those having to carry their own purchases.] 

First Lady, Michelle Obama, made it her business in July to visit the Marrero store, having just concluded her healthy-foods presentation in nearby New Orleans.  She wanted to see, firsthand, what motivated people can do to encourage this health concept and in so doing support her own health and fitness campaign, Let’s Move.   She was delighted that so many of the children, who had come out to greet her, had already bought into the idea:  Eat healthy.  Grow Healthy. 

There is an important conclusion that has emerged from the vision of this small, but rapidly growing, chain:  It’s all about access!  Pierce says the most important aisle in his stores is the fresh produce section.  His aim is to encourage people to eat healthy and avoid processed foods (too much salt and artificial additives) found in most markets and/or fast food selections found along the boulevards.  He goes on to say that when given a legitimate choice, people will choose healthier foods over the junk variety—deep down they know it is healthier for them and their families.  Children, in their formative years (those years that form them), can be guided to think healthy as well.  As parents do, children will do, and friends will do too. 

Located in mostly overlooked neighborhoods, these stores hire locally—thus giving a boost to the economy:  jobs; better salaries; buying power; a boost to the agriculture and manufacturing industries, thus requiring the hiring of more workers to meet demand.  That’s the kind of cycle we want to perpetuate.  At the same time, business owners can still make a comfortable profit and earn customer loyalty. 

The partners decided to offer their expertise and business know-how to offer fresh, healthy foods in food deserts at, so importantly, affordable prices.  Pierce is quoted as saying:  “It’s about sustenance, sustenance of families and sustenance of the community itself.  Economic development is the social-justice movement of the 21st century--that my mantra.” 

We can copy this model for those neighborhoods in Los Angeles which have not received the attention they so desperately need.  Let’s work with our Neighborhood Councils, our City Councilmembers, our County Supervisors, our State representatives.  Tell them we want healthy foods at affordable prices and that we will not settle for less!  After all, we elect them, and they are charged with representing us! 

When we are healthy, we perform better in our schools and on our jobs.  As our rate of illness diminishes, so will its concomitant cost to the rest of us, the taxpayer.  We become more productive.  We can enjoy life more.  If the process indeed boosts the economy, the rate of crime will also be mitigated as more people will have jobs and become stakeholders in communities that they, themselves, will not want to see degraded. 

You have heard me say much of this before.  Sterling Farms is simply one example of what can be done to accomplish the goal of a better society.  What Pierce and his partners have done for the New Orleans environs, we can do here in Los Angeles  and (not to dis his efforts) maybe even better!


(Rosemary Jenkins is a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Coalition. She also writes for CityWatch.)





Vol 11 Issue 97

Pub: Dec 3, 2013

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