The City announced the near completion of the unprecedented $30M COVID-19 Meal Assistance Program, which has provided twice daily, restaurant made meals to COVID-vulnerable residents for nearly a year.
“The pandemic hit New Orleans hard early on and we needed to ensure that our most vulnerable people could stay home and have food on their tables,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “I’m grateful to our partners at FEMA who agreed that meal delivery during the height of the pandemic was a priority to keep people safe. This truly historic program has served our residents, workers, and restaurants well, and for that I am so proud.”
Now in its eleventh month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded program has provided nearly 3.3M meals to over 24,000 New Orleanians who, due to age or medical condition, have an elevated health risk if exposed to COVID. Providing home delivery, the program allows vulnerable residents to limit their exposure to others while ensuring access to food. The program is also open to residents who are COVID positive or are under quarantine.
“The program has filled a valuable gap that Second Harvest and other non-profits have not been able to take on - that being the focus on delivery to high risk homebound seniors and those with special medical needs,” said Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans President and CEO Natalie Jayroe. “This has been instrumental in protecting at risk New Orleanians and has been an essential tool in our fight against COVID 19.”
As vaccination rates continue to rise and COVID cases, transmission, and hospitalizations remain low in Orleans Parish, the program will soon be sunsetting, with meals lasting at least through May 30. The City is making a final request to FEMA, which, if approved, would extend the program through June. The roughly 4,000 residents currently receiving meals will be informed this week of the nearing end of the program and will be encouraged to call 2-1-1 to connect to other resources if in need of further food assistance, including SNAP, food pantries, and distribution sites.
In addition to serving residents in need, the program has the added benefit of supporting the 88 local restaurants who produce the local fare that make up the delivery boxes. According to a survey done by Chef's Brigade, the meal program has re-employed at least 500 New Orleanians who may have otherwise been out of work due to the pandemic in food production alone. Additional jobs have been created in the delivery and administration components of the program. For a report on the financial impacts of the program on the restaurant industry produced by Chef’s Brigade, visit chefsbrigadenola.org.
“The meal program has been an emergency financial lifeline to many in our beloved and culturally important restaurant industry, whether that's restaurants and their kitchen staff, purveyors or independent chefs,” said Chef’s Brigade founder and Executive Director Troy Gilbert.
The meal program is managed by the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, with vendor Revolution Foods and its partners, Chef’s Brigade, the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) and d’livery NOLA. Community based organizations, philanthropic partners, and existing government programs continue to coordinate food resources for residents in need.
“We are proud to partner with local restaurants, small businesses and nonprofit organizations across the city of New Orleans to support families with healthy and freshly prepared meals,” said Revolution Foods CEO Kristin Groos Richmond. “We are committed to continuing to develop creative solutions for nourishing people at scale and creating new job opportunities right here in New Orleans.”