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Top Box Foods expansion creates oasis in food desert

By Autumn Gibbons
On January 16, 2014

  • Sophomore Liam Doolin hands boxes to sophomore Jason Goldstein at a produce drop-off. Photo by Claire Brown

Top Box Foods, a non-profit aimed at providing healthy and high-quality food to people who live far from a grocery store, has made New Orleans its first expansion city outside of its Chicago home base. Sophomore Sam Heyman, co-founder and director of Host Site Development at Top Box Foods New Orleans, said New Orleans has a major need for the services Top Box Foods provides.

"There are other cities in the country where Top Box branches are opening, but I believe no city needs it more than New Orleans," Heyman said. "The average distance to a grocery store in the city is .83 miles. Many of our customers have to walk or take several buses to get to these stores."

The organization presents volunteer opportunities for many Tulane students. Freshman volunteer Sam Black said students provide a variety of different services for the organization.

"I work once or twice a week in the offices in New Orleans, and I also work most delivery days every month," Black said. "When I volunteer, I make reminder calls to customers about delivery days, fold pamphlets or do any office work that is needed from me."

In the future, the volunteers at Top Box Foods New Orleans plan to work with Tulane fraternities and sororities to help donate to a variety of different charities. This partnership can help spread the word about Top Box Foods while giving back to the New Orleans community.

"We're going to partner with fraternities and sororities and instead of donating five percent to each fraternity and sorority, we'll donate it to a charity of their choice," Heyman said. "The initiative is called 'Groceries for Good,' and we were happy to have Kappa Kappa Gamma be our test run site."

Top Box offers delivery sites where customers can purchase a food box of their choice. The pickup site location changes each cycle of deliveries to help accommodate for those located throughout the New Orleans area.

Freshman volunteer Emily Poole said the benefits of the organization go both ways.

"It's cool because a lot of times we would have never seen these parts of New Orleans, but because of our participation in Top Box we are able to explore more of the city and meet many people," Poole said.

Communities within New Orleans have also helped Top Box expand its reach into the Ninth Ward, Gentilly, New Orleans East, Central City and the Seventh Ward. The organization aims to continue its growth in New Orleans.

"Looking towards the future, the Tulane community can expect an established, self-sustaining Top Box with an open-door policy for any and all interested student volunteers," said junior Connor Casas, president and founder of Top Box New Orleans.

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