This is the first part in a series of Tiger TV's investigative installment about agricultural food needs and deficiencies in the state of Louisiana.
Larry Johnson's quick grocery store run is actually a 43-minute walk for him and his neighbors on Napoleon St., who typically don't own a car.
"There's nothing here in South Baton Rouge," Johnson said. “The difference would be tremendous if there were grocery stores in walking distance.. chances are, they would get the nutrition they need.”
In Louisiana, 45 percent of people live in an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. The nutrition and research communities have coined these areas as food deserts.
One of the largest food deserts in the state sits right in LSU's backyard, just north of the university's campus.
Edgar Cage works with Together Baton Rouge, a non-profit created to help improve the Baton Rouge community. One of there main focuses has been food insecurity.
“We’ve been working on this issue since 2014 when we created the Fresh Food Financing Initiative," Cage said.
According to Cage, Baton Rouge not only lacks grocery stores in low income areas, but the convenience stores in those neighborhoods don't offer much.
“Those corner stores don’t sell fresh, healthy foods," Cage said. "You’ll be lucky to find a head of lettuce or a tomato, and if you do, it will cost you 50 to 60 percent more than it would somewhere else.”
Food deserts are not the only obstacles prevalent in low income communities. Food swamps, neighborhoods with an abundance of fast food restaurants and other unhealthy options, are now flooding cities to the point where these have become the only options.
Councilman Darryl Hurst, who represents Louisiana's fifth district in Baton Rouge, said looking for a healthy meal in the city is difficult.
“When I try to look for a healthy meal, I have one or two places to go get it," Hurst said. "And you have to go to those same places everyday."
The 70805 zip code has both food swamps and high crime. The Baton Rouge crime rate is 2.3 percent higher than the national average and 1.4 percent higher than the state average.
The combination of crime and food swamps often prevents grocery stores from setting up shop in these neighborhoods.
“Anytime you have high crime, you typically have low education. When you have low education, you have low income. When you have low income, you have lower median incomes in those households," Hurst said.
Hurst encourages families in his district to utilize Top Box, a program that delivers boxes of nutritious food to individuals and community providers at a much more affordable price.
“Whatever the need is," Hurst said. "We are partnering to make sure the community is fed.”
Unlike other organizations in the community, no financial requirements or trends are needed to qualify and receive assistance from Top Box.
“A hungry kid has trouble learning at school, a hungry adult has trouble looking for a job and those opportunities," Hurst said. "If we could help in that one area, we want to be able to do that and close that gap.”
As important as the programs and partnerships are, 17,000 households in North Baton Rouge are still food insecure. Hurst says money is the bottom line.
“When grocery stores look at where they want to land, they look for certain income levels to be able to put certain merchandising together to make sure the community has the products that it needs,” Hurst said.
Despite organizations like Together Baton Rouge offering incentives for grocery stores to build in food desert communities, high crime rates often deter them.
“There’s a perception [that] it's difficult to get a grocery store to come in these communities because of what they think will happen...crime, theft, etc.,” Edgar said.
Councilman Hurst has seen how companies choose their next location, and the process often excludes low income areas.
Big box grocery stores are not as likely to invest in the community. That logic leaves Larry Johnson, as well as his neighbors who don't own vehicles, to walk miles and miles to put healthy foods on their tables.
"You can't avoid crime, crime is everywhere, but you can help a community." Johnson said.
Residents like Johnson hope that grocery stores will change their way of thinking about these communities.
"If you want to do better, you have to know how to do better," Johnson said.