When Wendell Pierce opened a new grocery store in a tough neighborhood in New Orleans, what he did not put on the outside — bars on the windows — was as important as what he did put inside — fresh fruits and vegetables–and they were affordably priced.

With his Sterling Express convenience store and Sterling Farms supermarket, Pierce, who gained fame on the big screen in movies like “Waiting To Exhale” and in hit HBO series like “The Wire” and “Treme,” is turning food deserts around by giving access to fresh fruits and vegetables back to the people.

Pierce’s team set up a technology-driven security system that lets the supermarket operate efficiently, without bars on the windows.


He saw neighbors walking home, loaded down with grocery bags in the New Orleans heat, and imagined an amenity. Now Sterling Farms offers free rides home for customers spending $50 or more. The branded SUV is a rolling reminder that the store is sensitive to neighborhood needs.

In his Sterling Express convenience store, the fresh bananas by the register signal an interest in healthy customers. The restrooms, which Pierce wants to show off, are about making the neighborhood a better place. They are brightly lit and spotless.

“Access to healthy food is a crisis, so all hands on deck. Of course there’s going to be discussions of strategy, what some people think is beneficial, what others think. I say that we try them all, because all of them contribute to everything. Sterling Farms takes advantage of the Healthy Fresh Food Initiative. It’s part of the Farm Bill specifically written for American businesses that choose to bring a grocery store into a designated food desert.”

As he looks forward to bringing fresh food to food desserts across the country, Pierce says it starts with educating the children.

Actor Wendell Pierce Puts His Money Where His Community Is  was originally published on

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