Farm-to-school initiative gets grant

A conference to address a statewide farm-to-school initiative has been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Grant Program.

Through a $25,000 grant, the LSU AgCenter will host a statewide farm-to-school conference to bring together school administrators, teachers and parents, food service managers, farmers, food distributors and others involved with Louisiana agriculture, school gardens and healthy school meals, said Annrose Guarino, the AgCenter state specialist for urban health.

Guarino and AgCenter horticulturist Carl Motsenbocker are leading the effort to develop a conference that will be held in 2015 to address food education and community health and provide economic development opportunities for local farmers.

The conference format will center on education, gardening and procurement, and provide technical assistance in areas such as local food procurement, food and garden safety, culinary education and incorporating curricula into existing core classes.

“The conference and three regional follow-up workgroup meetings will provide opportunities for local interested parties — including agriculture professionals, faith-based organizations, smaller nonprofits, private schools and others — to join the farm-to-school movement,” Guarino said.

The follow-up sessions are expected to be held in New Orleans, Ruston and Lafayette.

Xavier University of La. leading China initiative

Xavier University of Louisiana has been designated the lead institution for the national 100,000 Strong Foundation’s effort in Louisiana to ensure the next generation of Americans is equipped to engage effectively with China.

The effort has been dubbed the “Advance Louisiana — Educating a Globally Responsible Workforce” initiative.

The partnership will have three major objectives, all designed to enhance Louisiana’s capacity of understanding Chinese language and culture:

Expanding Mandarin teaching in Louisiana primary and secondary schools, community colleges and historically black colleges and universities

Study in China for students in Louisiana who participate in Mandarin instruction

Enhancing cultural understanding of owners and employees in businesses throughout Louisiana, especially those engaged in trade and tourism.

Xavier University President Norman. C. Francis said programs initiated by Xavier’s Confucius Institute during the past two years complement what the 100,000 Strong Foundation has been striving to implement on the national level.

As a result of CI initiatives, seven K-12 schools in the New Orleans area began offering Mandarin Chinese language courses this fall, including four charter schools.

The Confucius Institute at Xavier is a partnership with Hebei University and the Confucius Institute headquarters.

Winn-Dixie remodels two BR-area stores

Winn-Dixie has remodeled stores at 13002 Coursey Blvd. in Baton Rouge and 17682 Airline Highway in Prairieville.

The stores were designed to combine the atmosphere of a specialty grocer with a touch of personalized service.

The remodeled stores have new deli departments, enhanced bakeries, new lobster tanks in the meat and seafood departments, expanded in-store liquor assortments, refreshed décor and new flooring. Both stores now offer an expanded hot bar area and custom-made subs and wraps, hot chicken wings, barbecue, hand-carved meats, lobster and fresh sushi. Additionally, Winn-Dixie on Coursey has a new olive bar for shoppers with specialty preferences and a circular candy section.

Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. is a subsidiary of Bi-Lo Holdings, which is the sixth-largest conventional supermarket in the United States by store count. It has 478 grocery stores and 367 in-store pharmacies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Excel Group opens United Plaza HQ

Excel Group’s new corporate headquarters, which includes Excel Contractors, Excel Maintenance and Excel Engineering, has opened at 8641 United Plaza Blvd. in Baton Rouge.

Excel Group said its recruiting department will remain at 17747 Airline Highway in Prairieville, and its fabrication facility remains at 39222 La. 621 in Gonzales.

CC’s Coffee House planned at Woman’s

A CC’s Coffee House will open in Woman’s Hospital in the coming months.

The store will be located in the main tower of Woman’s Hospital at the front left corridor at 100 Woman’s Way.