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New Orleans Secures $18 Million For Emergency Food Program, Plans To Partner With Local Restaurants

Ben Depp
National Geographic Society
Monica Gunderson with the group New Orleans COVID-19 Mutual Aid packs about 20 boxes a day of groceries, toilet paper and cleaning supplies. April 28, 2020.

The city of New Orleans has secured $18 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help feed residents impacted by the coronavirus, Mayor LaTonya Cantrell announced at a press conference Monday afternoon.

“We will provide one of the most comprehensive mass feeding programs in the United States of America, the first of its kind,” Cantrell said.

Approximately 1.8 million meals will be distributed monthly for the duration of the coronavirus emergency, according to Cantrell. The program is meant to serve vulnerable individuals who are not already receiving federal assistance through a pre-existing program.

This includes but is not limited to seniors, homebound adults, special needs individuals, the homeless and families with children under the age of 18.

Since the pandemic hit New Orleans in March, many of these individuals have relied on charitable organizations and other temporary feeding measures. As the pandemic stretches on, the city says they’ve been looking for a more sustainable option.

Ramsey Green, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer for infrastructure, said that the city realized they were in a “vulnerable position” back in April and decided to ask their federal partners for help.

FEMA approved the city’s request last Friday and has agreed to help finance the feeding initiative through a cost share. Together, FEMA and the city of New Orleans will provide 60,000 meals a week with FEMA covering 75 percent of the initiative’s costs and the city contributing the other 25 percent.

“This isn’t something that FEMA normally does,” Green said. “This is a very abnormal situation.”

The initiative is also meant to serve as a stimulus for local restaurants. Nearly a fifth of New Orleans residents work in food service.

Unemployment soared to 18.8 percent in April and some experts believe the current figures are closer to 25 percent. Either way, that places New Orleans’ unemployment rates above the national average.

“This is a highly complex situation where we have economic devastation amid public health devastation,” Green said. “Food and feeding is not something that people should be worried about in a time like that.”

The city is currently accepting proposals from local vendors. Applications can be submitted online using request for proposal number 624 and must be completed no later than June 10.

The city plans to select vendors by June 14 and begin providing meals soon after.

Aubri Juhasz covers K-12 education, focusing on charter schools, education funding, and other statewide issues. She also helps edit the station’s news coverage.

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