Hunger in New Orleans

Hunger in New Orleans

Questions and Answers for Second Harvest Food Bank New Orleans

by Laura Bergerol

October 1, 2014

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Terri Kaupp of Second Harvest New Orleans, about hunger in New Orleans. Full disclosure, because we live in a technology driven world, the discussion wasn’t verbal, but was instead done electronically by me asking questions about hunger, and by Terri, answering them. While not the same as a discussion in person, it was the easiest way to make this happen, since our lives tend to be hectic and over busy. Additionally, Second Harvest of New Orleans and Acadiana does not have the ability to break out the numbers for New Orleans vs South Louisiana. So not only do they cover the New Orleans metro area, but they also cover 23 parishes in South Louisiana up to the state lines of Texas and Mississippi.

In asking questions of Second Harvest, I wanted to

1) Understand if hunger in New Orleans is different than in other communities, 

2) Assess the impact that Second Harvest has on the problem of hunger in New Orleans. and

3) Find ways that individuals and businesses can help Second Harvest.

My questions for Second Harvest;

1) From what I have read, 1 in 6 people in America face hunger. How many in New Orleans?

Currently the statistics nationally matches the numbers in New Orleans; one in six households in Louisiana are at risk of hunger, and more worrisome is that 1 in 5 CHILDREN are at risk of hunger in Louisiana.

2) How many seniors are using food banks in New Orleans (and Lafayette) to subsidize their pantries? Where is Second Harvest most helpful for seniors? Adult day care facilities? Meals on Wheels for shut ins/disabled?

Approximately 42,000 seniors per year are served through food pantries and residential care centers. Most people don’t often realize just how vulnerable our seniors are. We also try to provide the types of foods they need due to diet/medical needs (low sodium, etc) We are not currently associated with the Meals on Wheels program – however that is something we would like to work with one day. Meals on Wheels currently has a yearly contract with a vendor – we at Second Harvest, hope that one day we can bid for this contract and provide meals to Seniors

3) Are there programs implemented in any of the New Orleans schools that send food home with children for the weekend? If not, are there plans to implement these programs?

Second Harvest Food Bank actually runs the Backpack Program – this is a program that sends backpacks with food/shelf stable milk/juice home with children identified by teachers/school administrators as “MOST AT-RISK” of not having enough food over the weekend. Currently 1700 children at 32 schools participate in this program that operates in 13 parishes.

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Backpack kids; Second Harvest New Orleans

Backpack kids; Second Harvest New Orleans

4) Households with children reported a significantly higher food insecurity rate than households without children in 2011. 20.6 percent vs. 12.2 percent. How many families do you usually see monthly in New Orleans?

Approximately 22,400 households per month in our 23 parish service area.(we currently don’t have the ability to break out by parish.)

5) 50.1 million Americans struggle to put food on the table. In the US, hunger isn’t caused by a lack of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty. More than 1 in 5 children is at risk of hunger. Among African-Americans and Latinos, it’s 1 in 3.What are the statistics in New Orleans? Is it hunger higher in African Americans homes, or in the Latino population?

Currently we serve: 33% White, 59% African American and 4% Latino clients in our 23 parish service area (the remaining 4% are of other ethnic backgrounds)

6) What happens in the summer? How does Second Harvest make up for smaller monetary donations during the summer?

This summer, Second Harvest once again provided breakfast, lunch and for some participating sites snacks for 4,270 children at 66 locations across the greater New Orleans area. This Summer Feeding Program provided 210,266 meals (breakfast, lunch, snacks) over the course of 9 weeks. We couldn’t run this program without the commitment from such wonderful partners as the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, ConAgra Foundation, USDA and Louisiana Department of Education. Second Harvest Food Bank runs the LARGEST summer feeding program in the state.

7) Over 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunch each school day. Less than half of them get breakfast and only 10 percent have access to summer feeding sites. For every 100 school lunch programs, there are only 87 breakfast sites and just 36 summer food programs. Does Second Harvest have a breakfast program for hungry children? How many can they help? What is your lunch program like in Orleans Parish? Explain more about your Backpack program?

Unfortunately, we don’t offer a breakfast program – that is already offered as part of the Federal free/reduced meal program. Second Harvest provides “supper” for children in after-school programs, after-care, etc – the program just launched on September 8 for the 2014-15 school year. Right now we have 33 afterschool sites enrolled (several more are pending approval from the state.) These children will receive a nutritious, hot meal prepared fresh every day. We do not FRY any of our items, all nutrition guidelines from the USDA are followed including using whole grain pasta, brown rice and wheat rolls. Every day the children get 2% milk and fresh fruit (apples/oranges) with their meals. We hope that we are able to introduce them to foods they may not be getting at home – baked Tilapia is one of their favorites.

8) 1 in 7 people are enrolled in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nearly half of them are children. Has it gotten worse in New Orleans and South Louisiana since Governor Jindal refused extra money as part of Obamacare programs?

No, these two programs are not directly related. However, November 1st the expiration of the ARRA funding did directly affect SNAP. A family of four saw a reduction of approximately $36 in SNAP benefits. Most people don’t think that $36 is a lot, however when your SNAP benefit is just over $100 – that $36 means several meals were taken away from families. Since that cut, our partner agencies and Second Harvest has seen an increase in need for emergency food assistance.

9) 40% percent of food is thrown out in the US every year, or about $165 billion worth. All of this uneaten food could feed 25 million Americans. What are the rules for restaurants in New Orleans?? Is there a worry about liability if food not ok? How many restaurants in New Orleans actually help with leftover foods? Could this program be extended? Does Second Harvest have partnerships with restaurants in New Orleans?

This is a very tricky area – While there are many restaurants who would like to help and donate unused food to Second Harvest, this is something we have to be careful with due to food safety. Also, we need a higher volume in order to make this worthwhile. We do have a “Retail Pick up Program” that works with local grocery stores that picks up items that may not be bad but needs to be removed from the shelf such as milk close to the expiration date. Technically the milk is still good and we can pick up those items (milk, bakery items such as bread, cakes from grocery bakeries, yogurt, milk, cheese, juice and produce). We are able to put these items on our mobile pantry trucks (refrigerated) and distribute immediately. These monthly mobile pantries distribute about 3-5 days of food to 150-200 households – we do approximately 37 mobile pantries a month between the Greater New Orleans area and Lafayette. In FY 14 we picked up 9.9 MILLION pounds of food – this is approximately 1/3 of the food we distribute on an annual basis (25 million pounds in FY 14 equivalent to 22.5 million meals). Through Feeding America we also pick up the end of day bread/baked goods from Panera locations in our service area as well as Texas Toast ends from Raising Canes. These are given to agencies such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters who feed large amounts of people daily.

10) What new programs will Second Harvest implement this year? How can individuals help? How much do corporate sponsors contribute to the annual monies for Second Harvest?

We are about to launch a new School Pantry program in two schools in Orleans parish this fall – just finishing up the paper work to implement. This will put a pantry twice a month at two local schools in areas that have over 95% enrollment in the Federal Free/Reduced meal program. This program will have an actual pantry for parents to access on distribution day – they will be able to access it after-school when picking up their children and won’t have to worry about being off of work during distribution times that might be during the middle of the work day.

A way to help Second Harvest currently;

Currently Second Harvest is participating in a contest to win $60,000 for Second Harvest, as well as money for their partners; You can vote daily but the contest ends on October 5, 2014.

Volunteering with Second Harvest Food Bank; If you would like to volunteer with Second Harvest, call the main number 504-734-1322 and ask to speak to our volunteer services coordinators. We have opportunities during the week, some evening shifts, and shifts in the Community Kitchen plating and packing hot meals for the Kids Cafe program.

Facts about Second Harvest Food Bank:

Second Harvest Food Bank is leading the fight against hunger and building food security in South Louisiana by providing food access, advocacy, education and disaster response.  Second Harvest provides food to 300 partner agencies and direct food access to community members in need across 23 parishes, from the Mississippi border to the Texas state line. Together, we make up the largest anti-hunger network in the state. With our community’s help, we can make food security a reality for every household in South Louisiana.

Second Harvest Food Bank is an affiliated ministry of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, a member of Feeding America, and a United Way Partner Agency. To join us in the fight to end hunger, please visit Follow us on Twitter at, fan us on Facebook at or Instagram at @2ndHarvestGNOA.

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