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NEW ORLEANS -- Life is imitating art in the case of actor Wendell Pierce, who plays a New Orleans musician trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina on the HBO show, "Treme." Offscreen, Pierce plans to open up a chain of New Orleans convenience stores this summer in order to fight "food deserts," where fresh groceries are hard to come by, according to a CBS News report.
Pierce's Sterling Express stores are meant to provide fresh, affordable food to low-income areas of the city, where 58 percent of the residents do not drive. According to Pierce, such access is an important part of the recovery process for neighborhoods still suffering aftereffects of the storm.
"We can't look at this through rose-colored glasses," the actor and entrepreneur said. "Because it's a tale of two cities right now. The city is thriving, but there's still large portions of your working class and poor communities that do not have their infrastructure coming back to the level it should be six and a half years after the disaster."
Pierce and his business partner -- his childhood friend Troy Henry -- hope to make a difference, as well as make money. “I'm an actor first, but this is a business," said Pierce. "This is American capitalism. American industry, you know? I think there's an opportunity to do well and do good."
A recent New York Times report cited two new studies that show worries about food deserts may be overstated. Some low-income neighborhoods feature more fast food restaurants, c-stores, restaurants and grocery stores than more affluent ones, the report noted, and the studies showed there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and the level of obesity among its children and adolescents.
When it comes to Pierce's stores, though, he's focused on providing more options. "We want it to be healthy; we want it to be a variety of choices," said Pierce.
Along with the new c-stores, Pierce has plans to open two Sterling Farms supermarkets later this year.