Fewer families to receive food bank help as federal funds near depletion

Updated: Aug. 18, 2020 at 8:47 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - When the Covid pandemic hit, food banks got a surge from federal programs. Thousands of cars would line up and a full box of food was simply placed in the trunk for take-home.

“We were really thrilled we got tremendous boxes of produce frozen meat milk and other kinds of dairy products,” said Second Harvest CEO, Natalie Jayroe.

The $3 billion in federal funding is now practically depleted, and the Second Harvest Food Bank says it comes at a time when both unemployment supplements are lower and families will soon need to prove their need to qualify for food.

“We’re seeing that anxiety increase again or seeing that in longer lines are seeing that and talking to people that are in the lines, it’s almost palpable how people are feeling,” said Jayroe.

They estimate they’re weeks away from having to turn many of those families away.

“No matter how we find or what we do less people will get food… where we could provide 3000 cars with food in two hours is now going to take three hours or four hours to take care of 500 families, so the process itself is going to slow things down and mean that less people get served,” said Jayroe.

The once weekly food distributions at Zephyr Field have already been cut to every other week, and organizers say food supplies are also growing scarce.

“Food we’re getting from Second Harvest is really whatever is been donated, so it’s hard for us to make a really good balance box for the people were trying to serve,” said councilmember Kristin Palmer.

After hosting partnered-food pantries for nearly six months now, Councilmember Kristin Palmer says she’s seen how the need is on the rise again. She says as a council they’ve lobbied the federal government for more assistance, but so have councilmembers across the country.

“People have come to count on this food as well so the other thing is our cities economy and our reliance on the hospitality industry and gig workers a lot of people it’s really hard for them to make ends meet now,” said Palmer.

Which is why until more federal assistance comes available, they’re again calling on New Orleanians to help feed their neighbors.

“That’s how New Orleans is that’s how we were after Katrina that’s how we are now and that’s how we’re going to keep fighting it,” said Palmer.

The Second Harvest Food Bank says normally they’d distribute around three million pounds of food a month.

They’ve been doing twice that amount during Covid.

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