The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified existing health, economic, and social disparities throughout our society. Populations that were already underserved and most vulnerable are facing deepening financial distress, without access to necessities including food. In New Orleans, food insecurity has jumped dramatically, and an estimated 65 percent of residents now live in food-insecure communities.
Across the region, mutual aid groups have stepped up to work together to keep neighbors fed and deliver groceries to people at risk; chefs are providing meals to unemployed service industry workers; citizens are fundraising to keep people fed. In this guide, Eater New Orleans has collected and organized resources for where to give, what to give, and how to volunteer in and around Southeast Louisiana. Editors have done their best to vet the charities, but it’s always important for people to make sure when they give money or time that the organization they’re supporting aligns with their values and has a transparent, proven track record.
Mutual Aid Groups
Mutual aid groups are grassroots organizations providing direct aid, support, and resources for fellow community members. They often form in an environment where current systems aren’t meeting basic needs, and as such are experiencing a comeback around the world during the pandemic as people band together to help support their neighbors. Organizers have developed online portholes with information about local mutual aid groups such as Collective Care Is Our Best Weapon Against COVID-19 and Mutual Aid Hub. Below are a few local organizations helping provide food assistance and other resources and support:
Greater New Orleans Caring Collective: This grassroots volunteer organization was founded in the wake of the pandemic, providing free grocery deliveries to keep people safely quarantined, services like laundering clothes, rental assistance for people who have lost their jobs, and connecting eligible individuals to food banks. Volunteers are urgently needed to help with food and medicine delivery coordinate neighborhood deliveries.
Imagine Mutual Aid: Local queer/trans and volunteer-led community group Imagine Water Works has launched Imagine Mutual Aid as part of the greater New Orleans mutual aid response network. Its Facebook group allows members to post offers, requests, resources, and action. To donate, see here.
New Orleans Community Fridges: NOCF is a mutual aid effort that provides a network to empower neighbors to support each other through the offering of free food in community fridges. There are a variety of ways to get involved, from being a fridge/food/monetary donor, a fridge host, a fridge keeper, an artist, a builder, or activist.
New Orleans Mutual Aid Society: This is a group of volunteer Bayou St. John residents who support neighbors in need through meal and grocery deliveries. Over the past month, the New Orleans Mutual Aid Society has worked with dozens of community members to deliver about 1,500 meals and 60 bags of groceries to homebound seniors and immunocompromised people.
Nola Covid-19 Mutual Aid: This group is an autonomous collective of local organizers working with other mutual aid groups in the city (like Imagine Mutual Aid) to provide emergency relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re currently raising funds for their efforts.
Southern Solidarity: This group is a community-based group of volunteers delivering food, medical resources, and other supplies directly to unhoused people in New Orleans. Volunteers are needed to help source, pack, and distribute food and supplies, and donations can be made here.
While some local organizations aren’t accepting new volunteers in order to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, plenty are still looking for assistance. Many of the opportunities involve helping collect and deliver groceries to the elderly and immunocompromised. Others include assisting local food banks and rescues with collecting and distributing food to the public. A few even allow for virtual and remote volunteering. Here’s how to get involved:
Broadmoor Food Pantry: The Broadmoor Improvement Association is providing emergency food assistance throughout the pandemic and is looking for volunteer delivery drivers to get food to seniors and homebound residents. The BIA is also looking for remote volunteers to help with calling seniors in Broadmoor to offer support.
Culture Aid NOLA: Culture Aid NOLA (CAN) is a collaborative effort of several local non-profits in the culture and hospitality sectors, providing direct assistance, resources and information to underserved members of the community. They’re seeking volunteers to pick up, prep, package, and deliver food.
Greater New Orleans Caring Collective: Founded in the wake of the pandemic, this volunteer organization is urgently seeking volunteers to help with food and medicine delivery coordinate neighborhood deliveries.
Hands On New Orleans: Hands On New Orleans has partnered with the United Way of Southeastern Louisiana on a volunteer center during the coronavirus pandemic. Volunteer needs include meal packagers for senior citizens at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute, meal delivery drivers, and virtual volunteering including mentoring students and calling seniors.
NOLA Tree Project: Founded to improve community disaster response and manage environmental service projects, NOLA Tree Project is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by distributing meals to senior citizens and housebound residents. Volunteers are needed for meal delivery.
Second Harvest Food Bank: The largest food assistance system in Southeast Louisiana is looking for volunteers to help sort, package, and distribute donated items. It is also seeking food and cleaning/sanitation supply donations for drop off Monday through Friday at their Elmwood location.
World Central Kitchen: The local #ChefsForAmerica response effort is seeking volunteers, who can sign up through World Central Kitchen. Restaurants can also sign up online to participate in the program.
Hunger Relief: Food Banks, Food Pantries, and Community Organizations Providing Food Access
Demand for food assistance is at cripplingly high levels, with Southeast Louisiana’s largest food bank network, Second Harvest, estimating that it has served double its typical number of monthly meals since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Below is a list of food pantries and community organizations providing food access that Eater has confirmed are still operating, but people looking for other opportunities to help can find more food pantry information online at foodpantries.org.
Broadmoor Food Pantry: The Broadmoor Improvement Association is seeking volunteers for food distribution events at the Broadmoor Community Church and for delivery drivers to get food to seniors and homebound residents.
Congreso de Jornaleros: Congreso de Jornaleros, or the Congress of Day Laborers, is an organization of immigrant workers and families founded by the day laborers who helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It’s partnering with other local organizations to host food distribution events for immigrant families in the region,
Familias Unidas en Acción: Nonprofit community organization Familias Unidas en Acción works to support immigrant families in New Orleans and Louisiana, especially those with young children, who are in need of food and economic aid. They accept monetary donations via Paypal and Venmo, as well as donations of clothing, personal hygiene products, and food. Contact Leticia at (504) 813-4022 or Mario at (504) 739-8295 to arrange a donation or for more information.
Giving Hope Community Center: This community center in New Orleans East has transformed into a drive-thru food pantry in partnership with Second Harvest. The walk-up food bank serves up to 300 families, Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is seeking volunteers.
NOLA Community Fridges: There are now at least 11 Nola Community Fridges locations throughout the city, all in need of water, produce, prepared foods, drinks, and snacks (but no raw meat). Follow on Instagram @nolacommunityfridges for locations and the NOCF site for information on how to donate, volunteer, and otherwise get involved.
LowerNine.Org: This local non-profit dedicated to the long-term recovery of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward from Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches of 2005 is partnering with Second Harvest for food distribution in the neighborhood.
Sankofa Nola: Longtime Community Development Corporation (CDC) and community garden Sankofa is distributing daily meals for children in the Lower Ninth Ward as well as providing commodity food boxes for seniors 60 and older. Donate here or reach out via email to inquire about volunteer opportunities.
Second Harvest Food Bank: The largest food assistance network in Southeast Louisiana works with over 700 partners in the region to host distribution sites every week. Volunteers are needed to help sort, package, and distribute donated items.
Westbank Food Distribution Center: Volunteers are needed to help with food distribution and setup/cleanup of site every Friday at Arthur Monday Center in Algiers, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Worker and Restaurant Relief
Bee’s Grocery Fund/MiNO: Made in New Orleans Foundation (MiNO) is partnering with Brooklyn-based chef Cassidy Lewis, program alumni and owner of Bumble Bee’s Pastry’s, and Bakers Against Racism to distribute $50 mini-grants to essential workers in need of immediate assistance purchasing groceries. Applications are collected on a rolling basis and money will be given monthly as long as funding allows.
COVID-19 Meal Assistance Program: The partnership between the City of New Orleans, Revolution Foods, NOLA Ready, and Chef’s Brigade on a FEMA-backed meal assistance program continues to be extended. The program delivers two free meals a day prepared by local restaurants to those in need, but not currently receiving help from the government. he program, which involves help of local restaurants. To sign up for meal assistance, call the program directly at 504-667-5796 or visit Nola311.org/MealAssist.
Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund: A partnership between the United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) and the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation (LHF), the fund awarded emergency financial assistance to individuals working in the hospitality industry. The second round focuses on legal support and counseling services for hospitality industry professionals.
NOLA Relief Fund - ROC United: The nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC), which seeks to help documented and undocumented restaurant workers who lose their jobs during the pandemic, is working to establish a Restaurant Worker Disaster Relief Fund for New Orleans.
Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund: This national organization is providing grants and resources to food service industry workers during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Donations to the cause can be made online.
USBG Bartender Emergency Assistance Program: The United States Bartenders Guild is helping bartenders affected by the virus through its emergency assistance program. SipScience, an analytics company focused on the hospitality industry, has also launched a GoFundMe to raise $100,000 for the USBG National Charity Foundation.
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