The Lower 9th Ward Market, the first food store to open in that area in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina, grabbed $5,000 in a business pitch competition with its plans to expand inventory and purchase a second truck that will allow the grocer to pick up more fresh produce and make local deliveries.
Owners Burnell and Keasha Cotlon laid out their plans in this week’s PitchNOLA: Living Well pitch competition, which included 10 entrepreneurs with ideas for a healthier New Orleans.
With funding from PitchNOLA, the Cotlons said, “We’re going to fight every day until we make our community look like the rest of the city.”
Other prize winners were Community Plates, Urban Farmstead and NOLA Milk Bank.
The Lower 9th Ward Market is at the corner of Caffin Avenue and North Galvez Street. Before the market’s opening in November, many nearby residents were traveling 5 miles or three bus lines to reach the nearest grocery store.
“Some people come in there and they just stand in the store and cry because they don’t have to catch the bus anymore. They can walk to our store,” Burnell Cotlon said.
Ideas offered by pitch finalists presented opportunities to make a significant impact in critical areas, including maternal health, food literacy and security and access to health care. “To see people from the community take initiative and bring creative new ideas to the table that are NOLA-based and NOLA-centric is not only inspirational, it’s the way we’re going to move forward as a city,” said Dr. Joe Kanter, medical director of the New Orleans Health Department, who served as one of the judges in the competition.
Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation awarded $10,000 in seed funding provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
A $3,000 prize went to Community Plates, which in the past six months has saved 9,500 fresh meals from being thrown away and helped redirect them to agencies like shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens. It uses volunteers through a mobile app.
A $2,000 third prize went to the Urban Farmstead, an educational center dedicated to teaching Permaculture design and homesteading skills like growing fresh produce, composting methods and water management. It also provides vegetables and starter plants through its sister organization, Southbound Gardens.
Over the next year, Urban Farmstead plans to help more people grow their own food in New Orleans. It also will address food access issues in Central City through free workshops to neighborhood residents.
The Audience Favorite award of $1,310.44 went to Birthmark Doulas’ latest initiative, the NOLA Milk Bank. It will be Louisiana’s first accredited service providing a safe, high-quality supply of donor breast milk to improve babies’ health. The prize was funded by audience donations and determined by a live text-in vote from the audience.
The competition brought together partners working to increase access to health and wellness across the city: Louisiana Public Health Institute, Tulane’s Prevention Research Center, LSU, Ochsner Health System, Institute for Mental Hygiene, Market Umbrella, The Rethinkers, as well as food sponsors Whole Foods Market and Be Well Nutrition.