Centennial Place and Fresh Food Factor

In New Orleans’ Warehouse District near the Port of Orleans, Renaissance Neighborhood Development Corp.’s (RNDC) redevelopment of two historic buildings along the banks of the Mississippi has exceeded expectations.

Fresh Food Factor in New Orleans.
Courtesy Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans Fresh Food Factor in New Orleans.

RNDC, a collaboration between Volunteers of America and Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans formed in 2006, converted the former Lykes Steamship factory into 52 moderate-income apartments; half of the units are for households earning no more than 80% of the area median income, and the other half are market rate.

“We’ve got a good mix of residents ranging from people who work in the hospitality industry downtown, a couple of first responders, some seniors, some students, and some people who work in the port,” says Victor Smeltz, executive director of RNDC. “It’s a really great cross-section of working families.”

The neighboring Centennial Cotton Press building is now home to the Fresh Food Factor, which is a growing social impact enterprise that serves as a healthy food-service provider for area schools and a job creator.

The program, which got off the ground in May 2013 with a few school lunch projects, served over 277,000 meals in fiscal year 2014. In fiscal year 2015, that number almost tripled to 737,730 meals at four schools, three Head Start programs, and 14 summer camps.

This year, Fresh Food Factor has secured contracts covering five new schools. Approximately 1.4 million healthy meals are expected to be served for fiscal year 2016, with 46 full-time and part-time employees.

“It’s exciting to see the program expanding,” says Smeltz. “The schools have really responded to the quality of these meals and the fresh and healthy approach.”

To aid Fresh Food Factor’s growth, Enterprise Community Partners and UnitedHealthcare recently provided funding for additional equipment for the proram’s state-of-the-art kitchen.

The $19 million redevelopment was financed with New Markets Tax Credits.