AgCenter investigates food systems to combat obesity in rural parishes

Louisiana

A customer exchanges SNAP tokens for fresh produce at the St. Helena Farmers Market in Greensburg. Photo by Marquetta Anderson/LSU AgCenter

BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The LSU AgCenter is continuing to work with rural parishes across the state to help lower obesity rates and improve access to health foods.

In 2018, the LSU AgCenter entered a five-year agreement with the CDC to address the nutrition and physical activity environments of six rural Louisiana parishes with an adult obesity rate over 40%.

Recently, LSU AgCenter nutrition specialists completed an assessment of food systems in six Louisiana parishes, including four in north Louisiana.

“The purpose of these assessments was to understand the local food system and food access needs of High Obesity Program communities in Louisiana” Denise Holston said.

The assessment focused on retailers that accepted SNAP and WIC benefits, food pantries, and recreational facilities.

  • The six parishes assessed were:
  • Assumption
  • Tensas
  • St. Helena
  • Madison
  • East Carroll
  • Morehouse

Some of the key findings from the deep dive into community assets included:

  • All six parishes had an abundance of community assets related to the food system, with the potential to expand or improve their offerings of healthier foods.
  • Food distribution sites such as food pantries and commodity distributions were found to have a high need for equipment and supplies to facilitate acquiring and stocking healthier food options.

Some of the recommendations included:

  • Enhance capacity of food distribution sites to enable procurement and storage of healthier items.
  • Connect food pantries with local producers identified in each parish.
  • Expand SNAP acceptance at local food outlets already selling fresh fruits and vegetables, such as farmers markets and produce stands.

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