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Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

MARRERO, La.-- At Sterling Farms, the produce is plentiful and so are the shoppers.

'I love it. It's large, it's clean,' said Victoria Lewis, who was picking up a few items in her grocery cart.

Sterling Farms grocery store held it's official grand opening in Marrero on Tuesday. It's an idea born from actor Wendell Pierce and his friend, New Orleans businessman Troy Henry.

'We did our analytics of underserved communities,' Henry said. 'And this is one of the communities, when we looked at Census tracks and shopping patterns.'

The Lapalco Boulevard location now becomes the flagship of the Sterling Farms concept: to bring grocery stores -- and, in turn, fresh food -- to areas that don't have it. It's a form of water, for so-called 'food deserts.'

'People come in and sometimes, given the choice, sometimes they grab an apple and a banana, instead of that candy bar,' Pierce said. 'And that's the first step in changing that paradigm, which is making sure people have the choice.'

Sterling Farms is a public-private partnership, with involvement and incentives from parish and state government. In addition to selling groceries, they also hope it serves as an opportunity for jobs. The Marrero location employs 60 people.

'That's 60 families we can impact, and multiply that by four or five or six, it really has an impact,' Pierce said.

Given the choice, shoppers said, they would go to what's nearby either out of necessity or mobility.

'It's a lot of people, elderly especially. They don't have the convenience of going all over,' said shopper Elenor Harris, who lives near the store. 'So, it came in right on time, really.'

It's an idea they hope to replicate elsewhere.

'I can tell you right now, we want to go to the Lower Ninth Ward,' Pierce said. 'That's a priority for us.'

In addition to the Lower Ninth Ward, Pierce said they are are also looking to open similar stores in other parts of Louisiana. He said they have also received interest from as far away as St. Louis and Baltimore.

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