$30M COVID-19 MEAL PROGRAM SUNSETS AFTER A FULL YEAR OF SERVICE
NEW ORLEANS —Today, the City of New Orleans announced the completion of the unprecedented $30M COVID-19 Meal Assistance Program, which provided twice-daily, restaurant-made meals to COVID-vulnerable residents for an entire 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.”
Ending after twelve months, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded program has provided nearly 4M meals to over 24,000 New Orleanians who, due to age or medical condition, had an elevated health risk if exposed to COVID. Providing home delivery, the program allowed vulnerable residents to limit their exposure to others while ensuring access to food. The program was also open to residents who were COVID positive or under quarantine.
[Watch: "Follow the Food," 24 hours inside the City of New Orleans COVID-19 meal program]
“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 officially sunset at the end of June, after a full year of service. Participation in the program dropped in the last few months and those who continued to receive meals have been encouraged to call 2-1-1 to connect to other resources if in need of further food assistance, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), food pantries, and food distribution sites.
In addition to serving residents in need, the program had the added benefit of supporting the 88 local restaurants who produced the local fare that made up the delivery boxes. According to a survey done by Chef's Brigade, the meal program helped to re-employ at least 500 New Orleanians, who may have otherwise been out of work during the height of the pandemic, in food production alone. Additional jobs were also 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 was 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 was managed by the City’s Project Delivery Unit and 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 have partnered 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.”
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