Grocery stores did very well during the pandemic. In 2020, Lafayette grocery stores pulled in just over $300 million, a 10% increase over the previous year. It makes sense. Restaurants shut down. People stayed home. Supplies were key to surviving a stay-home order.
Now, imagine that there wasn’t a grocery store near you. Imagine you lost your job, or you were furloughed. Maybe you don’t have a car and the nearest grocery store is five miles away. If that’s your situation, you live in what researchers call a food desert. And that’s not just a problem during a pandemic.
Having access to healthy food is essential to a good quality of life. And more and more people now live in food deserts. They live shorter lives with higher rates of chronic disease. It’s a serious social problem and it disproportionately impacts poor and historically black neighborhoods.
On this edition of Out to Lunch Acadiana, Christiaan Mader’s guests are working to bring healthy food to communities without it, specifically on Lafayette’s northside.
Kevin Ardoin comes from a family of farmers, but he didn’t become a farmer himself until he had an epiphany. He quit his job in retail and got to farming. He now owns Zydeco Farms — a 43-acre produce farm in Evangeline parish. In 2020, Kevin launched Fightingville Fresh, the first farmers market in Lafayette’s Fightingville neighborhood and its mission is to make good, healthy produce available to folks living in a food desert.
While Kevin is working in Fightingville, Tina Shelvin Bingham is planting all kinds of seeds in the McComb-Veazey neighborhood of Lafayette.
Tina is Executive Director of the McComb-Veazey Neighborhood Coterie and the Community Development Director for Lafayette’s Habitat for Humanity. She’s worked to grow prosperity in the neighborhood since 2012. And that includes creating a community garden, where McComb Veazey residents grow and share produce. Like Kevin, Tina’s current career path was a detour. She was trained as an engineer and is now engineering a brighter future for her neighborhood.
Photos by Jill Lafleur. And check out this lunch-table conversation about sugarcane and crawfish farming in Acadiana.