NEW ORLEANS, La. (4/4/11)--A New Orleans-based credit union and its affiliated community corporation have launched a program that will expand fresh food access to underserved neighborhoods in Orleans Parish. HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corp. and Hope CU) is launching the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI), a program that will award $14 million in forgivable and low-interest loans to supermarkets and grocery stores that locate or plan to locate in the parish's underserved areas. The FFRI program will help vendors to open, renovate or expand retail outlets that sell fresh fruits and vegetables where fresh foods are lacking, particularly for low-income residents, said the credit union. "Communities will be able to reap all the economic development benefits that come along with a grocery store: the creation of steady jobs at decent wages and serving as a catalyst for complementary retail stores and services nearby," said Bill Bynum, HOPE CEO. In a post-Katrina survey conducted by Tulane University, nearly 60% of low-income residents surveyed said they must drive at least three miles to reach a supermarket, but only 58% owned a car. Only 30 full-service groceries had reopened in the city, according to a 2010 study by Social Compact. The city will provide $7 million in Disaster-Community Development Block Grant funds, which will be matched 1:1 by HOPE. The Food Trust, a national non-profit organization that has expanded access to fresh foods in Pennsylvania and New York, will be part of the program delivery team.