NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As lines continue to grow at food banks during the pandemic, Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced a multi-million dollar program to address food insecurity.
"This program will specifically target our most vulnerable populations who are not receiving federal assistance through other programs, but are impacted by COVID-19," Cantrell said.
She said the city requested $18 million from FEMA to fund the initiative, providing 60,000 meals per week.
While food banks have been the main source of food distribution, the city announced they would partner with local restaurants to alleviate some of the burden.
"From extensive data analysis, what we've realized is that they are struggling now to continue and to ramp up more, and we needed to provide a way for that to happen," New Orleans Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said.
"It will be a tremendous opportunity to amplify what we're doing now. We've gone from about 800 to 1,000 meals a day normally that we do. Last week, we did 66,000 meals. About 11,000 meals a day. to be able to take that to the next level with this initiative will just be a godsend," Jay Vise with Second Harvest Food Bank said.
Vise said this isn't the first time they've partnered with restaurants to feed the community.
"For years, the restaurant industry, restaurant owners, the workers, they've come forward in times of disaster, but also year round to help us out," Vise said.
Some local chefs say they started helping out at the food bank after restaurants shut down.
"I was sitting around the house, and I couldn't just sit at home all day, so I started volunteering here. As the need ramped up, they started bringing some of us from the industry to do contract work," Executive Chef Michael Shelton at Second Harvest Food Bank said.
The Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts also started an initiative to help out Second Harvest by donating one dollar from every poboy sold at their five locations.
“Also have a 100 percent match with Tabasco, and basically, within a week, we raised almost close to about 2,000 meals last week, and we hope to do this and grow it bigger and bigger every week,” Creole Cuisine CEO Marviani Ammari said.
He says many customers have stopped by to support the cause.
"Right now, we're just going out to the community, and we've been enjoying it. Where there's need, we jump and try to do whatever we can with whatever we have," Ammari said.
Those who buy poboys at all five restaurants will have provided 40 meals to Second Harvest Food Bank.